Which age groups have the highest prevalence of smoke inhalation injuries?

Updated: Oct 15, 2021
  • Author: Keith A Lafferty, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Answer

The New Jersey study also showed that children and the elderly represented a disproportionate percentage of people injured by fire. [31] People younger than 11 years or older than 70 years constituted 22% of the population but accounted for 40% of all fire fatalities. These statistics closely match national figures.

Small children are especially vulnerable because they are less likely to escape a confined space and they also have a higher minute ventilation, which increases exposure to smoke and other toxins released during pyrolysis. In addition, their relatively smaller airways are more severely affected by airway edema and obstructing material.

Burns in children are 2.5 times more likely to occur by scalding rather than flame exposure. Hence, the percentage of children who experience respiratory symptoms after burns is less than that of adults, who are more often exposed to smoke-producing flames. About 50% of all burn deaths are related to inhalation injuries. Early hypoxemia is a contributor to over 50% of smoke inhalation deaths, with CO intoxication accounting for as much as 80% of the fatalities.


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