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Medical Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats

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Respiratory Tract

Current Medical Countermeasures

Pretreatment and Post-Exposure Treatment

Specific pretreatments, drugs to prevent chemically induced lung injuries due to respiratory airway toxins, are not available. Analgesic medications, oxygen, humidification, and ventilator support currently constitute standard therapy. Hemorrhaging, signifying substantial damage to the lining of the airways and lungs, can occur with exposure to highly corrosive chemicals and may require additional medical interventions. Treatment of injuries to the lower respiratory tract is also supportive and usually includes administration of oxygen, the use of mechanical ventilation to include positive airway pressure, and bronchodilators to treat bronchospasms. Drugs that reduce the inflammatory response, promote healing of tissues, and prevent the onset of pulmonary edema or secondary inflammation may be used following severe injury to prevent chronic scarring and airway narrowing.

Diagnosis

Current diagnostic capabilities are limited. Exposure to chlorine, phosgene, or any of the major alkalis is determined based on clinical signs and symptoms. No screening tests are available to identify individuals exposed to low levels of chemicals.

Last Updated February 29, 2008