Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by the buildup of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream. The oxygen in the cells are replaced by carbon monoxide. This condition can be deadly or lead to serious damage to the tissues.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas produced by gas fuels, charcoal and propane. It can buildup to high levels in spaces with poor ventilation or engine appliances.

Sources of carbon monoxide

  • Charcoal grills and kerosene space heaters
  • Water heaters that are gas-based

    Carbon monoxide poisoning
    Once an individual is suspected with carbon monoxide poisoning, the initial move is to bring him/her to an area with fresh air and call for emergency assistance if symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, shortness of breath and weakness arise.
  • Gasoline and diesel-powered generators
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Propane-fueled forklifts
  • Spray paints, solvents, pain removers and degreasers
  • Indoor tractor pulls

What are the indications?

Carbon monoxide poisoning can trigger the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Individuals who are intoxicated or sleeping are susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. Some die due to this or end up with permanent brain damage.

Management

Once an individual is suspected with carbon monoxide poisoning, the initial move is to bring him/her to an area with fresh air and call for emergency assistance if symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, shortness of breath and weakness arise.

The treatment that are usually recommended include the following:

Administration of pure oxygen

This helps minimize the damage caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. A mask is placed over the nose and mouth to inhale pure oxygen while in the emergency department. If the individual could not breath, a ventilator is used.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy

In most cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, this is the preferred treatment. This requires the individual to stay inside a pressurized chamber. Carbon monoxide in the blood cells is replaced by oxygen.

For severe cases, hyperbaric therapy is usually used. It is important to note that the heart and brain tissues that are prone to damage by carbon monoxide can be prevented by the replacement of oxygen.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on carbon monoxide poisoning is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage respiratory emergencies including carbon monoxide poisoning by taking a standard first aid course with Red Deer First Aid.

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