In a small town in England last week, a man was saved from his burning car by firefighters. But it was the fimmediate action of paramedics in getting the man fitted with an oxygen mask and breathing pure oxygen that just as likely saved his life too.
The man, who was suffering from shock as a result of the fire, was not able to tell paramedics if he had breathed in smoke, so the paramedics gave him pure oxygen as a precaution. This was wise, as it turned out that a later examination revealed that he did in fact breathe in the poisonous fumes contained in smoke.
Anyone who gets within close proximity of a fire should take oxygen therapy afterwards, because the damaging effects of smoke inhalation can present themselves over days, weeks, and months--even if a person feels okay right after a fire. And with children, who have smaller lungs than adults which will fill completely with smoke and become damaged more quickly, it is imperative they take oxygen even if there's no evidence of first-, second-, or third-degree burns or other obvious physical ailments.
If smoke inhalation goes untreated, it could lead to death within a day or two of exposure, even if the person doesn't appear to have any symptoms immediately afterward. Smoke inhalation damages lung tissue, making it difficult for the body to absorb oxygen. What's more smoke inhalation can actually worsen over time if proper care is not taken immediately, leading to complications months and years later that can permanently handicap, or even kill, a person. Taking oxygen immediately after exposure can not just keep you alive, but also allow you to have a normal life in the years to come.
Lastly, if you think smoke is the last thing you need to worry about if you are caught in or near a fire, consider this: A few years back, a Georgia man was found dead in his home after a fire. He had no burns; he suffered smoke inhalation. But the incredible thing was this: He lived in a small mobile home! In other words, all this man had to do to have a chance of surviving was move a few feet to a door or window--yet he could not even make it that far before losing consciousness. This demonstrates just how poisonous smoke is to your lungs.