top of page


Inhaling the smoke of a fire damages the body through asphyxiation (lack of oxygen), chemical asphyxiation, thermal or chemical irritation, or a combination of these.

How can it cause cardiac arrest?

Your heart is responsible to pump blood throughout your body, transferring required oxygen to various essential organs of the body. Smoke inhalation causes a decrease in oxygen to the body. This could lead to your heart stopping and going into cardiac arrest.

You might misinterpret this for a heart attack if you are unaware of the differences. Let’s look at these conditions and how they differ.

Four points to detect the difference – heart attack and cardiac arrest (telling them apart):

We'll look at what they are, what happens, the symptoms and what you should do.

Knowing the difference between these conditions is important and can cause all the difference in the emergency treatment thereof.

1. A heart attack is a circulation problem. When someone is having a heart attack the blood flow to the heart is being physically blocked by a narrowed or clogged artery. Though the heart is still beating the heart muscle is starved of oxygen-rich blood. This will result in parts of the heart tissue dying.

The longer the heart attack goes on, the greater damage the heart undergoes. You should look out for these following symptoms; chest pain, jaw pain, arm pain, shortness of breath and cold sweats.

The symptoms of a heart attack can be different for women as it is for men. Women may experience these marginally different symptoms: back pain, nausea, dizziness and fatigue. Symptoms can start hours, days, or even weeks before the event of a heart attack.

2. Cardiac arrest, on the other hand, presents an electrical problem and comes very suddenly. There is no blockage of blood flow. An electrical malfunction causes the heart to stop beating all together, meaning there is no blood flow in the body.

This lack of blood of course means a lack of oxygen, leading to symptoms like a loss of consciousness and no pulse. Without immediate emergency treatment it could cause death within minutes.

Both of these conditions require prompt attention. Emergency medical professionals could limit the damage of a heart attack and may be able to reverse a cardiac arrest by shocking the heart with a defibrillator.

Luckily portable defibrillators (AED’s) are available in our modern age as well. These have easy to follow instructions, and anyone can utilise them to treat a possible cardiac arrest. (not heart attacks).

If you witness someone in cardiac arrest, start – hands only – CPR while waiting for the emergency help professionals.

In a brief summary, a heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart stops and this causes a section of the heart muscle to undergo many damage and begin to die. Whereas with cardiac arrest happens when the heart stops beating all together as a whole.

Smoke is nobody's friend, and inhalation can cause a cardiac arrest. Make sure your building has the right smoke extraction system. Call one of our ventilation experts on 011 826 5959.

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Curvent Channel
bottom of page