Smoke Inhalation - Diagnosis

Diagnosis of smoke inhalation is based on personal history and physical examination. In most cases, the patient will visit a doctor because he or she has been present at a structural fire. The possibility of smoke inhalation will be clear. In the case of a smoker, this connection may not be so obvious.

A physical examination may reveal some or all of the symptoms listed above. In addition, the doctor can listen to the patient's chest and take his or her pulse rate. Smoke inhalation may cause abnormal chest sounds and a decreased pulse rate.

Blood tests may also be taken. A blood test can show the amount of oxygen in the blood. It can also show if toxic gases from the smoke are present in the blood. A chest X ray will not show damage to the respiratory system but it may show the presence of fluids in the lungs.

The first fire sprinkler system was built in 1874 by the American inventor Henry S. Parmalee. He developed the system to protect the factory in which he built pianos.

Sprinkler systems soon became popular in large factories and warehouses. But they did not seem to have any use in the large majority of office buildings and other structures. They were much too expensive to build.

Attitudes about sprinkler systems began to change in the 1940s. A number of horrible fires were responsible for this change. Perhaps the most important was a fire that struck the Coconut Grove Night Club in Boston in 1942. In that fire, 492 people were killed, many by smoke inhalation.

Before long, city governments began to insist on sprinkler systems in all new office and apartment buildings. For example, New York City requires such systems in all high-rise buildings. The city of Chicago requires sprinkler systems in all nursing homes. Some communities even require sprinkler systems in private homes. San Clemente, California, is one such community.

Damage to the patient's airways and lungs can be viewed directly with a bronchoscope. A bronchoscope is a device that consists of a long thin tube that can be inserted into the patient's respiratory system. The doctor can look through the tube directly into the windpipe and lungs to see if damage has occurred to tissues.

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