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Saving Victims of Smoke Inhalation from Poisoning and Death

Paramedics in the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda, NY have a new tool to help them save victims of smoke inhalation.

In late August, the paramedics announced that their ambulances will now carry supplies of the drug Cyanokit, which works to help those suffering from smoke inhalation by counteracting the chemicals in toxic gases and smoke. Other ambulance units around the country will likely do the same thing over time.

Paramedics are calling it a life-saving treatment. “It’s to benefit the citizens of our town and the firefighters who put their lives on the line, should anyone be overcome by smoke and the toxic effects of cyanide that’s in smoke,” said one paramedic.

The drug has been used in France since 1996 and has recently been FDA approved.

Cyanokit (hydroxocobalamin) is a form of vitamin B-12. It is used as an antidote to cyanide poisoning. Cyanokit works by helping cells in the body convert cyanide to a form that can be removed from the body through urination.

Cyanokit is given as an injection through a needle placed into a vein, most often in an emergency situation. The medicine must be given slowly through an IV infusion, and can take about 15 minutes to complete.

Cyanokit is usually given only once. However, you may receive a second dose if needed.
Cyanide poisoning can occur if a person is exposed to smoke from a house or industrial fire, if they swallow or breathe in cyanide, or if they get cyanide on the skin.

Cyanokit is usually given in an emergency, so you may not have time to tell your caregivers about any drugs you take or medical conditions you have. However, you will need follow-up medical care after receiving this medication. Tell your doctor if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or congestive heart failure.

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

You may develop an acne-like skin rash from 1 week to as late as 4 weeks after you were treated with Cyanokit. This rash should go away without treatment. Call your doctor if you have a rash that does not clear up on its own.

This medication can cause you to have unusual results with certain medical tests. Tell any doctor who treats you that you have recently received a Cyanokit injection.