Carbon monoxide is a gas that is tasteless, colorless and unscented present in fumes released during partial combustion. These fumes can come from truck or car engines, gas stoves, gasoline engines, heating systems and lanterns. In addition, the carbon monoxide fumes can also come from kerosene, charcoal, wood or propane.
The red blood cells in the body take up carbon monoxide at a faster rate than oxygen, thus crowding it out in the bloodstream. Carbon monoxide poisoning arises if the vital organs specifically the heart and brain are deprived of the required oxygen.
At low levels of exposure, the symptoms can be confused as the flu, food poisoning or other ailments. The symptoms might include the following:
- Mild headache
- Shortness of breath
- Mild nausea
At moderate levels of exposure, the symptoms include:
- Severe headache
- Loss of muscular coordination
- Mental confusion
Management of carbon monoxide poisoning
It is important to bring the individual to the emergency department right away if suspected with carbon monoxide poisoning.
The general treatment is to provide the individual with oxygen via a mask to counterbalance the buildup of carbon monoxide in the blood. Oftentimes, a hyperbaric oxygen which is delivered with higher than normal pressure is needed.
If detected early, the condition can be reversed. Nevertheless, lasting damage can occur in body parts that necessitate a large amount of oxygen such as the heart and brain. There is also high risk for damage to the reproductive system and to an unborn baby since in both cases, the cells are rapidly dividing and necessitate a steady supply 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 this type of poisoning by taking a standard first aid course with Victoria First Aid.