This post is the third and last post (for now, anyway) on the subject of carbon monoxide (CO).
CO Poisoning Symptoms
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms occur in the two body systems that depend most on a good supply of oxygen: the nervous system (including the brain) and the heart. Of the many symptoms, some are:
- Headache, fatigue, nausea, and general malaise — which are often mistaken for flu, food poisoning, a mild stroke, or a migraine
- Dizziness and confusion
- Fast breathing
- Fast heartbeat (tachycardia)
- High blood pressure
High-level exposure causes acute poisoning which can cause permanent brain injury and death. Chronic low-level exposure causes milder poisoning and it is unknown whether this damage is permanent. The symptoms usually disappear when the CO source is removed.
Some people are more susceptible to CO poisoning than others:
- Unborn babies
- Young children
- Elderly people
- Anyone who suffers from heart disease, respiratory disease, or anemia
CO Poisoning Treatment Overview
The first step of CO poisoning treatment is to remove yourself, or to be removed if you are unconscious, from the area contaminated by CO. The goal of treatment is to restore normal oxygen levels in the blood by removing the CO from the blood’s hemoglobin.
Speed is of the essence of carbon monoxide poisoning treatment. Most people can recover if they are treated promptly enough. If treatment is too delayed, the brain and heart damage can be permanent or death can occur.
When a person arrives at a hospital emergency room for CO poisoning treatment, tests are done to assess the severity of poisoning and quantify the CO level in that person’s blood. The exact treatment depends on the severity of your exposure to CO and the severity is usually related to the length of time you were exposed to it. In most cases, oxygen therapy is given.
The type of oxygen therapy most often given is called 100% oxygen therapy and it requires you to breathe oxygen through a close-fitting mask. If you are poisoned to the point where you cannot breathe on your own, a ventilator will be hooked up to breathe for you.
The other type of oxygen therapy is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, meaning that you are placed in a body chamber containing oxygen under pressure. This procedure removes CO more quickly.
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The best way to prevent CO poisoning is to have your appliances installed by qualified professionals and checked annually for correct operation. A defective appliance may produce carbon monoxide so as a backup, use CO detectors. A house should have one on each level, including one in the basement near the furnace, and one in each bedroom. Unlike smoke, which can wake a person up with its heat and smell, carbon monoxide is undetectable by the body.