Smoke and Ash Inhalation Often Comes with Catastrophic Burn Injuries

Smoke and Ash Inhalation Often Comes with Catastrophic Burn InjuriesCalifornia is synonymous with certain natural disaster events such as earthquakes and wildfires. Over the last several years, however, wildfire season seems to be turning into a continuous devastating event lasting the majority of the year. This is tough on a large portion of our citizens who experience numerous forms of loss: economic, emotional, physical, and the injury or death of loved ones.

Whether you experience a burn injury from a wildfire disaster itself or a fire that has nothing to do with wildfires (like defective products), or a related injury from breathing smoke or ash, you may face a long, tough road to recovery in all aspects of your life. These events and injuries may have been started by a negligent individual or company and can easily cost you your livelihood or your life.

Breathing smoke and ash damages the respiratory system

Inhalation injuries occur when you breathe in smoke (or other harmful, foreign substances) in the midst of a fire, or ash from homes and belongings. The effects on your respiratory system from extensive airway damage can be debilitating. Harm can be caused by the excessive temperature from proximity to flames heating the air you breathe, from chemicals released by smoke, or from ash particles lining your respiratory tract which can all injure your:

  • Nasal passages
  • Posterior oropharynx
  • Trachea
  • Bronchi
  • Alveoli
  • Larynx (thermal injuries rarely travel beyond this point in your respiratory system)

Those at higher risk include children, older adults, and individuals with chronic respiratory problems like asthma, congestive heart failure, and COPD.

Symptoms of smoke or ash, or foreign substance inhalation can include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath and/or chest pain
  • Headache
  • Sounding hoarse or noisy breathing
  • Pale or burned skin
  • Irritated or red eyes
  • Reduced alertness or confusion
  • Black soot in the nose or mouth

To evaluate an inhalation injury can require numerous tests including:

  • Chest imaging
  • Complete blood count
  • Complete metabolic panel
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Arterial blood gas
  • Carboxyhemoglobin level
  • Pulmonary function testing
  • Bronchoscopy and direct laryngoscopy

Tests and treatment can leave you with excessive medical bills, and depending upon your health insurance, your out of pocket costs can cause you significant financial loss.

Burn injuries should be expected

Catastrophic burn injuries often go hand in hand with inhalation injuries – but can exist without inhalation injuries. As of late August, it has been reported that there were 560 wildfires burning around California. That level of destruction means people and structures in the paths of these infernos rarely stand a chance.

Being burned by flames themselves is a significant hazard of wildfires particularly when winds pick up and increase the speed of these blazes leaving residents much less time to react. In areas that are already on fire, you could become burned while trying to evacuate either in a vehicle or on foot just by driving through areas of excessively high heat. Some homeowners become burned while trying to safeguard their property or animals from the fires that have come quicker than expected.

Despite evacuation orders, some residents always stay behind and suffer the consequences. They can end up with a variety of burn injuries. Fires can create superficial burns from briefly touching a hot metal doorknob to having to be admitted to a burn unit for extensive long-term treatment and recovery for third-degree burns over a victim’s entire body.

If you have been injured by a California wildfire, or a fire from a defective product or dwelling, you may need help from the experienced Los Angeles wildfire disaster attorneys at McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP. We understand that you do not deserve to lose everything you have worked hard to build because of a negligent company or individual. Get a  free case evaluation by calling 310-706-2751, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page. Because of COVID, almost all screening is done remotely. And, as these cases can be very complex and are always very fact specific, you should not consider this legal advice. You need to talk to lawyer to get legal advice.