Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas present in the fumes released during partial combustion. These fumes can originate from vehicle and truck engines, gas stoves, gasoline engines, heating systems and even lanterns.
The red blood cells take in carbon dioxide rapidly than oxygen. This results to the crowding out of oxygen in the bloodstream. It is important to note that carbon monoxide poisoning occurs if the vital organs such as the heart and brain are deprived of the needed oxygen. Additionally, carbon dioxide might mix with proteins in the body and result to tissue damage. In both cases, serious damage or even death can result in just a few minutes of exposure to large levels of carbon dioxide.
What are the signs?
If an individual was exposed to low levels of carbon monoxide, the symptoms might be confused with the flu, food poisoning or other ailments.
The usual signs include the following:
- Mild nausea
- Mild headache
- Shortness of breath
At moderate levels of exposure, the symptoms generally include:
- Severe headache
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Mental confusion
- Fainting or loss of consciousness
Management of carbon monoxide poisoning
If an individual is suspected with carbon monoxide poisoning, it is vital to bring him/her to the nearest emergency department right away.
Generally, the treatment is aimed on having the individual inhale via an oxygen mask to counterbalance the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. Oftentimes, using hyperbaric oxygen which is administered under higher than normal pressure is required.
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on carbon monoxide poisoning is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage this form of poisoning, register for a first aid and CPR course with Vancouver First Aid.