Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

February 1, 2017

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a life-threatening condition caused by exposure to high levels of Carbon monoxide, also known as CO. CO poisoning, one of the most common fatal poisonings, occurs by inhalation. It is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous industrial hazard resulting from the incomplete burning of natural gas and any other material containing carbon such as gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal, or wood

Carbon-based fuels are safe to use. It is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess CO is produced, which is poisonous. When CO enters the body, it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs.

Carbon monoxide is harmful when breathed because it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain, and other vital organs of oxygen. Large amounts of CO can overcome the affected person in minutes without warning—causing you to lose consciousness and suffocate.

Besides tightness across the chest, initial symptoms of CO poisoning may include headache, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness, or nausea. Sudden chest pain may occur in people with angina. During prolonged or high exposures, symptoms may worsen and include vomiting, confusion, and collapse in addition to loss of consciousness and muscle weakness. Symptoms vary widely from person to person. CO poisoning may occur sooner in those most susceptible: young children, elderly people, people with lung or heart disease, people at high altitudes, or those who already have elevated CO blood levels, such as smokers. Also, CO poisoning poses a special risk to fetuses.

Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized. On average, about 170 people in the United States die every year from CO produced by non-automotive consumer products. These products include malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters; engine-powered equipment such as portable generators; fireplaces; and charcoal that is burned in homes and other enclosed areas.

People can be in danger of Carbon Monoxide poisoning at home if dangerous amounts of Carbon Monoxide accumulate in the home. This can happen as a result of any or a combination of the following –

  • Faulty or damaged heating appliances
  • Heating appliance not maintained or serviced
  • Rooms not properly ventilated
  • Blocked chimneys or flues
  • Indoor use of a barbecue grill or outdoor heater
  • Poor installation of heating appliances
  • Improper operation of heating appliances
  • Property alterations or home improvements, which reduce ventilation
  • Cars, trucks, or other engines are left running in enclosed spaces, such as garages. Carbon monoxide can build up in a garage and leak back into the house. Even sitting in an idling car in an open garage or swimming behind an idling boat can be dangerous.
  • Using cooking appliances for heating purposes

Who is at Risk?

  • Older age
  • Heart disease, blood vessel disease, sickle cell anemia, and lung problems
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Work that uses equipment or chemicals that produce CO

Symptoms Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

As CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed. The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include –

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

High-level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including –

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death

Symptom severity is related to both the CO level and the duration of exposure. For slowly developing residential CO problems, occupants and/or physicians can mistake mild to moderate CO poisoning symptoms for the flu, which sometimes results in tragic deaths. For rapidly developing, high-level CO exposures (e.g., associated with the use of generators in residential spaces), victims can rapidly become mentally confused, and can lose muscle control without having first experienced milder symptoms; they will likely die if not rescued.

Complications Associated with Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Depending on the degree and length of exposure, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause –

  • Permanent brain damage
  • Heart diseases, possibly leading to life-threatening cardiac complications
  • Death
  • Harm to unborn babies – low birth weight, perinatal death (stillbirth and death that occurs within the first four weeks of birth), behavioral problems
  • Urinary incontinence – this is more common in women with severe CO gas poisoning. The patient may develop involuntary leakage of urine (passing urine when not meaning to).

Treatment

Hyperbaric O2 therapy should also be considered for pregnant patients, possibly at lower serum CO levels than in nonpregnant patients. Hyperbaric O2 therapy may decrease the incidence of delayed neuropsychiatric symptoms. However, this therapy may cause barotrauma and, because therapy is not available at most hospitals, may require transfer of patients, who may not be stable; also, a chamber may not be available locally. Evidence for the efficacy of hyperbaric O2 therapy is becoming more controversial, with some studies suggesting harm. In cases where hyperbaric O2 therapy is considered, consultation with a poison control center or hyperbaric expert is strongly recommended.

Oxygen Therapy – This is used to normalise the levels of oxygen within the blood, which will have been displaced by breathing in the carbon monoxide. There are two types of oxygen therapy.

Nutritional Supplementation– In situations caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, a very high dose of vitamin C and glutathione given intravenously can be very helpful. Other useful nutrients include vitamin B complex with choline and inositol, vitamin C with bioflavonoids, vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, garlic capsules, superoxide dismutase (SOD), raw liver extract, protein supplements (free-form amino acids, especially L-cysteine and L-methionine), and selenium.

Herbs – Herbs for the regeneration of liver cells are helpful, combined with ones that facilitate elimination of waste from the body. Specific details depend upon the chemicals involved, but one general practice is to combine the tinctures of milk thistle, licorice, and dandelion leaf in equal parts and take one teaspoonful of this mixture three times a day. Considerable research and clinical experience has shown that the herb milk thistle is very effective in assisting the liver when exposed to toxins.

Flower Essences – Take Crab Apple for detoxification and Star of Bethlehem for emotional shock or trauma, if poisoning caused by an accident.

Reference –

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/260211/Carbon_Monoxide_Letter_2013_FinalforPub.pdf

http://www.cdc.gov/co/pdfs/faqs.pdf

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34666666

https://www.uhms.org/carbon-monoxide-poisoning/carbon-monoxide-poisoning.html

http://www.thedoctorwillseeyounow.com/content/public_health/art2100.html

http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4340092_FireCOFactSheet.pdf

http://www.silentshadow.org/long-term-effects-of-carbon-monoxide-poisoning.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/carbon-monoxide-poisoning-5-things-to-know-about-the-silent-killer-1.2575563

http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/warning-signs-of-carbon-monoxide-poisoning

http://patient.info/doctor/carbon-monoxide-poisoning-pro

http://www.carbon-monoxide-poisoning.com/

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