One danger that you face working with hot or corrosive substances is an inhalation injury. Inhalation injuries can happen when you breathe in fumes or hot air that cannot be cooled fast enough before getting into your lungs. Environmental exposure is another common cause of this kind of injury.
When a toxic substance is the cause of the injury, a few things happen. First, the exposure can damage the mouth, airway and lungs. Depending on the chemical or toxin, it may take only a small amount of exposure to cause harm.
Next, you would begin to cough out the substance. Secondary damage can happen from this, as the tissues that are already damaged are put under stress.
After this, there is an additional risk of injury due to vomiting and inflammation. The respiratory tract can be badly injured, and the normal protective reflexes may not work. This could lead to aspiration, which is when a person breathes in vomit or other liquids into the lungs. This can lead to pneumonia.
How will you know if you injured your lungs?
There are a few signs that you may have injured your lungs, such as:
- Chest pain
- A high heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Blue-tinted nails or skin, showing that oxygen is not making it to the extremities
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to get to an emergency room. Chemical exposure can be extremely dangerous, and without treatment, your lungs could be badly damaged. In a worst-case scenario, a person could need a transplant to replace one or both damaged lungs.
If you are at risk of inhalation injuries, you should receive safety training. You may also be able to seek a workers’ compensation claim if the injury occurs on the job.