Can You Live In A House With Smoke Damage?

by Allied / Monday, 10 August 2020 / Published in Fire Damage Restoration

A fire broke out in the master’s bedroom. Luckily, it was contained, so it did not spread to the other areas of the house. Except for the lampshade and bedsheets consumed by fire, everything else is usable. There are no other visible damages. Are the residents considered safe? No.

If the people living in the house find themselves constantly sneezing, getting a runny nose, coughing, or having palpitations or shortness of breath sometime after the fire has died down, they are manifesting the negative effects of smoke damage. Smoke damage cannot be seen; but if left unaddressed, it could eventually lead to death just as fire does.

Fire Damage vs Smoke Damage

When something turns into ashes or when a part of it gets burned, the destruction is directly attributable to the fire. This is what fire damage is.

Meanwhile, smoke travels even to the hard-to-reach areas of the house. Though unseen, its tiny particles and chemicals attach themselves to whatever belongings they touch on. They penetrate fabrics and cover appliances with a thin film of soot. When inhaling them results in major health issues or even death, it can be said that smoke damage has taken place.

Smoke Damage Is Dangerous to Your Health

Smoke could contain a wide range of toxic chemicals depending on the fuel and the process of combustion. However, in any type of smoke, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and particulate matter (called soot) are always present⁠—and all three are hazardous to health. Inhaling carbon monoxide, for example, blocks the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream, making it hard to breathe. Thus, it is noteworthy that most indoor fire victims die from smoke inhalation instead of the fire itself.

So, even though a house has been saved from being burned down, the occupants should safeguard themselves from smoke damage. Extra precautions are necessary if vulnerable people are residing in the house:

  • Pregnant women exposed to carbon monoxide could suffer a miscarriage. The said toxic chemical is dangerous for the baby’s development and is linked to birth defects. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in smoke could also cause birth defects as well as tumors.
  • Babies and children’s airways are smaller and not yet fully developed. Also, they could easily inhale the smoke particles and chemicals since they crawl or toddle around. They also have a delicate immune system.
  • Elderly people, like young children, have a weak immune system. They are prone to respiratory illnesses that smoke exposure could bring.
  • People with preexisting heart or lung diseases could suffer from worsened health conditions.

What Health-Related Problems Could Smoke Damage Bring?

Respiratory Problems

Because carbon monoxide decreases the body’s oxygen supply, it could worsen heart conditions. For instance, people with angina—a heart disease marked by chest pains when the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen from the blood⁠—are defenseless against it.

The smoke particulates could also reach the lungs, leading to respiratory irritation or breathing difficulty. Hence, it could trigger asthma attacks and aggravate pre-existing lung conditions.

Long-term exposure to smoke is also blamed as one cause of emphysema, a lung condition characterized by shortness of breath due to damaged air sacs. Also, smoke is one culprit of bronchitis where the tubes that carry air to and away from the lungs are inflamed. It makes one cough out mucus and gasp for breath.

Eye, Nose, and Throat Irritation

The smoke odor itself is already nauseating, but the fine particles in it could bring about itching and redness to the eyes. They make the eyes watery, too. When inhaled, they cause sore throat and sneezing.

Skin Problems

The smoke’s particulate matter can go through the hair follicles until it reaches the deepest layers of the skin. The person exposed to it could then develop skin irritation or allergy. Pimples, pigment spots, and aggravated psoriasis or contact dermatitis could also develop. There are also studies linking skin cancer and wrinkles to prolonged exposure to smoke.


Decreased oxygen supply reduces alertness and headaches. Sleepiness, nausea, vomiting could also be counted as signs of smoke inhalation. Some of these symptoms fall in line with that of finding black mold in your home. Either way it needs to be addressed.

How Do You Save Your House from Smoke Damage?

Given the health risks associated with smoke damage, it might not be enough to just have the house cleaned by the residents themselves. There are things to consider during smoke and fire damage cleanup that would need the service of professional house restoration experts.

Knowing which parts of the house suffered the heaviest damage

The untrained eye could miss what parts of the house need the most cleaning, but experts could easily spot indicators of the overall damage.

Understanding how the air flows throughout the house

The airflow affects where smoke particles accumulate the most. Restoration experts know that some areas, though far from where the fire occurred, may have been heavily damaged.

Awareness about particle ionization

Certain materials, like metals or synthetic, magnetize to them the ionized particles present in smoke. The way professionals clean them is different from that of ordinary people.

Using specialized techniques in the cleanup process

Restoration professionals are trained in ways to clean things up to avoid further damage. They also use special cleaning materials.

Recognition of the possibility that molds could occur

Molds thrive in moist areas. And a house bathed with water to put out the fire is susceptible to this. It could cause an allergic reaction to some people and could also render things useless.

Employing expertise to prevent the problem from recurring

Through their extensive training and experience, reputable restoration professionals could help save you from going through the same bout of disaster.

There is always more than what the eye can see, and this is true when fire erupts. It is a good thing to save things from getting burned up, but smoke also causes damage as much as fire does. Smoke damage poses serious health risks that could eventually lead to death. Hence, the cleanup process should be taken seriously. It should not only be about making things physically look good, it should ensure that health risks are eliminated. It should also give the residents peace of mind that the possibility of a repeat disaster is far off. Employing the help of house restoration professionals would be a big step in achieving these goals.