When enough carbon monoxide (CO) is inhaled in the body, carbon monoxide poisoning occurs. It is produced by gas appliances. Due to its characteristics being colorless, odorless, tasteless and initially non-irritating but highly poisonous gas, it is difficult to detect if it is already inhaled in the system. Its symptoms are similar to those of flue, food poisoning, viral infections and even tiredness. Exposures of even at 100ppm can pose serious damage to human health.
The science behind carbon monoxide poisoning
There is a short and simple explanation why carbon monoxide can be so fatal to human health.
- Oxygen binds with hemoglobin in the blood which is then transported to the various organs of the body.
- At normal conditions, there is a 0mmHg carbon monoxide level in the body.
- Affinity between carbon monoxide and hemoglobin is about 230 times stronger than affinity between oxygen and carbon monoxide.
- Thus, when exposed to hemoglobin has stronger binding preference to carbon monoxide than oxygen.
- No oxygen is delivered to the tissues.
What products can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning?
Several home appliances and other devices manufacture combustion fumes that release carbon monoxide. These include:
- Gas ranges
- Petroleum products
- Other fuels
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
It is commonly hard to diagnose carbon monoxide poisoning simply because its most common symptoms are similar to many different illnesses. It has no unique characteristic trait. Moreover, anyone doing any activity can inhale carbon monoxide such as when sleeping or intoxicated or cooking or any other activity. The commonest symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Dull headaches
- Breathlessness or shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
Complications from carbon monoxide poisoning
The complications brought about this type of poisoning are dependent on the degree and length of exposure. The longer the victim is exposed to carbon monoxide, the more grave the complication it brings. Some of these complications include:
- Heart damage, possibly leading to lethal cardiac complications years after carbon monoxide poisoning has occurred
- Permanent brain damage; and
Treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning
No home remedy is available for carbon monoxide poisoning. However, several things can be done to prevent greater damage extent.
- Get fresh air as soon as possible. Open windows, doors and turn off gas appliances. Exit the house or workplace.
- Immediately call for emergency medical assistance if you or anyone is experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- While on the way to the hospital, try to prepare to answer questions about potential sources of exposure carbon monoxide, onset of signs and symptoms, any medical impairment, etc.
- High-dose oxygen is usually given to victims of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Although no home cure is available for carbon monoxide poisoning, it is still essential to act immediately. Understanding carbon dioxide poisoning will help understand mechanism of poisonous gases in the body, a medical emergency. First aid training offers courses in cases of medical scenarios, such as in poisonous gases like that of carbon monoxide poisoning.