Medical First Aid Guide
Table 9: INHALATION OF CHEMICALS
Inhalation of chemicals may cause suffocation (asphyxia) due to:
- Obstruction to breathing in the throat or the air passage through spasm of the air tubes or by swelling of the linings of the voice box due to irritant fumes;
- Fluid in the lung air spaces caused by irritant fumes;
- Poisoning of the blood which prevents the carriage or use of oxygen in the body caused by, for example, carbon monoxide and cyanide;
- Poisoning of the mechanism of breathing in the chest (e.g. by organophosphate pesticides) or the brain (e.g. by chlorinated hydrocarbons);
- Gases which do not support life because they replace oxygen in the atmosphere (e.g. carbon dioxide, nitrogen).
Vapours of volatile liquids often have a pleasant or disagreeable odour. They may cause lightheadedness, dizziness, headache or nausea.
A few gases have delayed corrosive effects on the lungs.
For advice on CPR in cases of suffocation: see table 2.
For advice on chemical hazards of fire: see appendix 9.
For advice on chemical hazards of welding: see appendix 9.
WARNING: Any casualty who has been gassed and has impaired consciousness must NOT be treated with morphine.
|Signs and symptoms||Treatment|
|Soreness of throat, hoarseness or cough||
|Dry cough, mild breathlessness and wheezing||
|Severe breathlessness and wheezing||
|Severe breathlessness and frothy sputum, blue discoloration of the skin, anxiety and sweating (pulmonary oedema)||
|Further advice on breathing difficulty: see appendix 9.|
|Fever, breathlessness, productive cough, increased pulse rate (over 110 per minute)||
|Further advice on diagnosis of breathing problems: see appendix 9.|
Note: Some are allergic to penicillins, including amoxicillin. In such cases, give 500 mg erythromycin 4 times daily.
A patient who has had significant exposure or any symptoms related to exposure should be kept warm in bed and closely observed for 48 hours and RADIO MEDICAL ADVICE OBTAINED.