Learn Introduction - Fire Breathing

Warning: Home of Poi and Pele do not endorse Fire Breathing, nor do we take responsibility for anyone injured in attempting these fire arts. This is meant as an informative guideline only. In attempting fire breathing you do so at your own risk.

  1. What is fire breathing?

    Fire Breathing is the aspiration of a fuel through a fire, causing the ignition of the fuel. (NB See definition below)

  2. Is fire breathing dangerous? Why?

    Even done correctly fire breathing can have adverse results on the health and well being of the breather such as, but not limited to:

    A. Death
    B. Severe burns
    C. Cancer
    D. Dental Problems
    E. Stomach and tissue ulcers
    F. Fuel Poisoning
    G. Chemical Pneumonia or Acute Respiratory Distress
    H. Dry Cough
    I. Headache, dizziness, drunken ill feeling
    J. Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach ache
    K. Dry mouth/ Cotton Mouth
    L. Dry skin and topical heat burns

  3. Free online video about Fire Breathing: An interview with Pele

Frequently Asked Questions about Fire Breathing..

There are many questions surrounding fire breathing. The first may be what the technically correct term is for it. Regionally, it seems the name ranges from breathing, to blowing, to spitting, none of which is definitively correct. According to Random House College Dictionary:
  • Spitting: to eject saliva from the mouth, to sputter.
  • Blowing: To produce or emit a current of air as if from the mouth, to move along as if by wind
  • Breathe: (of a material) to allow air or moisture to pass through easily, to move as in air.
  • Aspirate: to produce and audible puff; the removal of a fluid from a body by aspiration; the high-speed flow of a fluid past an orifice.
While aspirating is the most appropriate term to use, it seems that to say breathing is more commonly associated with this fire art internationally than any other, and so will be the term I use from this point on.
NOTE - some usage of the term "aspirate" is the opposite of this - the medical term "aspirate" means to breathe in. In no way do we mean this usage of the word!

FIRE BREATHING is the most dangerous of all the fire arts!

I also feel that while still early in my musings it must be mentioned that once you choose to embark into the world of fire breathing, you will be participating in what is the most dangerous of all of the fire arts. Fire breathing comes with the strongest hazards and the gravest effects of any of the fire presentations we could possibly present. Fire breathing can be accompanied by simple side effects, but also bares the possibility of having long term repercussions on a person's health. These things should be considered long and hard before venturing into the realm of fire breathing.

Side effects, which tend to appear within 24 hours after Fire Breathing, can be:

  1. Dry Mouth/.Cotton. Mouth: Caused by the fuel it can be taken care of by drinking plenty of fluids before, possibly during, and after a show.
  2. Dry skin or a ruddy hue to your complexion: This can have two main causes. One is having a topical allergy to the fuel used. Take note if this turns into a rash, becomes raw or is centralized to chin and mouth area, chances are you have an allergy and should not be using that brand of fuel, or fire breathing in general. The second reason is the intense heat of the fire, being in such close proximity to your face, will burn your skin in a way very similar to a low-grade sunburn. It does not hurt and liberal use of moisturizer will help this.
  3. Singed facial hair
  4. Nausea or stomach ache: This is caused by the accidental ingestion of a small amount of fuel, or simply from the small amount of fuel that washed down from inside your mouth to your stomach with saliva. The best treatment for this is preventive measures, such as taking a caplet of activated charcoal, drinking milk- cream- or buttermilk, eating something starchy (bread or non-fried potatoes), or taking an ant-acid before and after your fire breathing.
  5. Some people have experienced headache, dizziness or a feeling similar to being drunk, after fire breathing: This can be the result of dehydration, in which case drinking plenty of fluids is optimal. This can be from a technique problem, much to the same effect as if you were to struggle blowing up a balloon. In this case evaluation of how you go about fire breathing and changing your technique is your best solution.
  6. A dry cough is not uncommon after fire breathing. This can be from smoke inhalation or from the accidental inhalation of aspirated fuel. The best course of care for this is small baby breaths during the coughing bout. Normally it will subside within the period of a day. If it is severe or does not subside then consult a physician.

In addition to side-effects, Fire Breathing also comes with a list of possible long-term health hazards.

This list includes, but if not limited to:
  1. Cancer of the mouth, throat, lungs, kidneys and liver. This is from long term exposure to carcinogenic fuels. (see also MSDS)
  2. Gum disease as well as other dental problems such as weakened tooth enamel.
  3. Chemical Pneumonia, which is, in simplest terms, damage to your lung tissue caused by inhalation of aspirated fluids. This can be detected within 24 hours of fire breathing from severe cough, fever, lethargy, nausea, shortness of breath and over all flu like symptoms. This can also occur over the course of time, much like a smoker's cough.
  4. Related to Chemical Pneumonia is Acute Respiratory Distress. This is a when your bronchial tubes close and shortness of breath occurs. Taking small baby breaths will be enough to get air into your system without promoting coughing. See a physician immediately.
  5. Stomach ulcers.
  6. Blowback. This is where the fire follows either the spray of fuel or the fuel fumes back to your face igniting your flesh and possibly your mouth on fire.
  7. Wind shift: Similar to a blowback, this is when the wind blows your fire breath back into your face.
  8. Fuel Poisoning: This is from the ingestion of too much fuel. Symptoms of this can include diarrhea, vomiting, severe nausea, extreme dizziness, cold sweats, fever, blurred vision and the shakes.
While the symptoms and repercussions of some of these are immediate and others take years to develop, they all can be deadly in their most severe forms, and can happen to well-seasoned professionals as well as novices and so should not be considered lightly.

Lastly burns are very real for even the most experienced fire breathers, from the barely noticeable topical burns to deadly internal burns. Treatment for topical burns is cold running water followed by aloe or burn treatment ointment. For severe burns see a physician. Keep minor burns clean and uncovered (when able to expose to air) or covered loosely with a bandage for best healing results.

Remember, as with all fire it is not if you will suffer any of these ailments but when. Being prepared is the key to having the mildest ailment and a speedy recovery.

But what about corn starch?...

So, what about other, "non-toxic" fuels/methods such as corn starch/corn flour? The fine powder form of corn starch makes a similarly explosive showing and was the reason why several flour mills exploded in 'the olden days'! The impression is that since corn starch is used in baking it is non-toxic and therefore safe for fire-breathing...

True, it may be non-toxic, but get ANYTHING into your lungs and you are potentially in deep trouble. And because corn starch is such a fine powder it makes it even easier to get into your lungs with possible nasty effects - pneumonia, pleurisy. I know when I take the lid off the corn flour to hold it well away from me because when I don't I always start coughing because of the powder. It is this aspect that give us cause for concern, as anything going into the lungs has potential to cause fatal conditions.

Home of Poi maintains that ANY form of fire breathing is dangerous.
You can reduce the risks, but you cannot eliminate them all. Since the greatest of these risks involves damage to your lungs and is therefore totally life threatening, Home of Poi will continue to "advertise" FIRE BREATHING as THE MOST DANGEROUS OF THE FIRE ARTS.

Tell me more about Fire Breathing..

By submitting, I agree that I have read this page and understand that this is a very dangerous fire art. We also acknowledge that neither Home of Poi or Pele endorse Fire Breathing, and take no responsibility for anyone injured in attempting these fire arts. The following page is meant as a guide only. In attempting fire breathing you do so at your own risk. I confirm I have also read and understand the Home of Poi legal disclaimer. I also confirm that I am over 18 years of age.
I accept:   Exit

"Fire Breathing" was first uploaded by HOP and has been viewed 193646 times.


Login or Register to post comments
Comments/replies: 3
Member #115809
Reged: Aug 2010
Post21st Apr 2011 7:00 AM 

This was a very informative topic thank you.:)
But I have a question what is overusing fire breathing? How long should you wait from preformance to preformance to be as safe as posible from getting canser and other sideeffects a week, a month, a year?

Member #234751
Reged: Apr 2016
Post23rd Jun 2016 5:14 AM 

Very helpful! thanks, and very informative, at the moment i can only do a flash, but i hope to learn pillars within a few months, and I am certain that with this information, I will be able to firebreathe safer and stronger than ever

Member #323682
Reged: Sep 2021
Post15th Sep 2021 7:46 PM 

Hey Richard from the UK here, Ive been Breathing Fire for around 3 years. I can do short bursts and long, and or big. Someone I know can do alot more bursts to include big. For anyone thinking to get into breathing should be prepared for a short life. It can come easy to you but even the most cautious driver can crash.

I would like to thank home of Poi for the nunchuka mind, they work great as a prop and as a torch ;.

One thing the article didnt mention is that you SHOULD have a med kit/ burn kit also. Not that Ive used one, if the time comes and you havent. And theres no ambulance for an hour your kinda already screwed. Would love to post pics but in dont think I can.

Kind regards



Comments/replies: 3

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