Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is generated by carbon-based products that are burned. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage and even death. Always remember that you cannot see, taste or smell the gas, but it has the potential to kill.
Causes of carbon monoxide poisoning
Take note that carbon monoxide is formed once organic compounds are burned. The common source includes motor vehicle exhaust, engine fumes, smoke fire and non-electric heaters. Carbon monoxide poisoning is often linked with a clogged or malfunctioning exhaust system and even with suicide attempts. The sources of carbon dioxide include the following:
- Charcoal grills
- Gas water heaters
- Kerosene space heaters
- Gasoline and diesel generators
- Propane stoves and heaters
- Propane-powered forklifts
- Smoke produced by cigarettes
- Boat engines
- Indoor tractor pulls
- Paint removers, spray paint and solvents
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
When an individual is exposed to any of the sources of carbon monoxide, the following symptoms are likely to manifest. These symptoms can get worse if the exposure of the individual is prolonged, especially in closed areas or those that do not have adequate ventilation.
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath upon exertion
- Symptoms strikingly similar to flu
- Abdominal pain
- Visual changes
- Walking difficulties
- Memory problems
When to seek medical care
In case an individual has any of the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important to take him/her directly to the nearest hospital.
How carbon monoxide poisoning is diagnosed?
Due to the indefinite nature of the signs and symptoms of the poisoning, the doctor will usually request for a blood test. This is considered as the most effective method to make a diagnosis.
Treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning
There are first aid measures at home that you can perform if you suspect that an individual is exposed to carbon monoxide.
- Transfer the individual to an area away from the source of carbon monoxide and has plenty of fresh air.
- Once the individual is moved away from the source, you have to call for emergency assistance or simply take him/her directly to the emergency department at the nearest hospital.
Once the individual is taken to the hospital, the appropriate medical interventions are performed to prevent the condition of the individual from worsening.
- The medical treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning is the administration of high-dose oxygen via a face mask that is connected to an oxygen reserve bag.
- The levels of carbon monoxide in the blood are monitored periodically until it is low enough so that the individual can return home.
- In case of severe poisoning, a hyperbaric pressure chamber can be used to provide a higher dose of oxygen to the individual.
- The source of carbon monoxide must be determined by the local fire department to ensure that the house or commercial building is safe.