Carbon Monoxide Facts - A Quick Fact Sheet
There are many hidden dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Knowing the carbon monoxide facts may just help you save your own life or that of others. Start by understanding what the signs and symptoms are, which include dizziness, headaches, confusion and memory loss, irritability, nausea and/or vomiting, disorientation, difficulty in coordination, abnormal reflexes, difficulty breathing, cerebral edemas, chest pains, coma, convulsions and seizures or fits, and even death.
Carbon Monoxide Facts - Signs and Symptoms
It is very important to recognize the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide in order to protect your family. Most of the time, different people in the same building will complain of the exact same symptoms. One of the carbon monoxide facts is that children are the most susceptible and will have severe carbon monoxide poisoning far quicker than adults, so pay particular attention to them. More often than not, poisoning is not discovered until the symptoms start to be severe, at which point it may actually be too late. The problem is that it mimics many other illnesses, including food poisoning, gastroenteritis and flu.
The main difference is, however, that carbon monoxide poisoning does not cause a fever or high temperature. It is also possible for the signs and symptoms to mask themselves as psychological or neurological disorders. Because of this, carbon monoxide poisoning is regularly overlooked. There are a number of high risk groups, including infants and the elderly, but also pregnant women and those of who have chronic cardiac or pulmonary illnesses, such as cardiac insufficiency or COLD (Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease).
Carbon Monoxide Facts - Medical Consequences
To further understand the importance of preventing carbon monoxide poisoning, you may want to know about the medical consequences. One of the scariest carbon monoxide facts is that a common result of severe poisoning is presented through cerebral edema, which is where the brain swells. This is a life threatening situation, where brain cells are destroyed because they are compressed into each other within the relatively enclosed space of the cranium.
Cerebral edema can usually be treated with drugs such as Mannitol or Dexamethasone, but these do not seem to be effective when the edema is caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Some people do recover from this edema, but recent scientific research has demonstrated that delayed neurological problems are a common side effect. Usually, these problems involve the so called "higher" functions of the brain - or the cognitive functions - meaning that people often have changes in their emotional behavior and in their intelligence. Symptoms that are very close to those of Parkinson's are also common, although it must be noted that these symptoms are not actually Parkinson's disease.
Carbon Monoxide Facts - Causative Factors
Causative factors of carbon monoxide are numerous. However, within domestic properties, it is often caused by gas stoves, particularly if they are used to provide heat to the property. There are stories of people placing a charcoal grill in their bathtub in order to have more heat in their property, which inevitably lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. The carbon monoxide facts tell us that over half of all the incidents happen in homes, with only 20% happening in businesses. This is a terrible statistic, particularly because it is so easy to prevent it from happening.
Carbon Monoxide Facts - Treatment
Treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning varies depending on the level of poisoning and exposure. A victim or victims should always first be moved into fresh air. Then, any emergency fire or medical service team should be alerted straight away, particularly if the victim or victims are actually demonstrating any symptoms. You should then stay with the victim until medical assistance is in place, to monitor them for respiratory problems. Lastly, make sure you ventilate the affected area. When the Basic Life Support Team or EMT arrives, they should immediately check whether there is any irritation to the respiratory tract, whether there is a cause of pneumonitis or whether there is a case of bronchitis. Then, they should administer 100% oxygen in a humidified state, through a tight fitting mask. Ventilation can be assisted if the patient struggles to breathe. Next, vital signs and level of consciousness should be monitored. It is possible for people to need treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber if they have very severe poisoning.
Last but not least, the victim should immediately be placed in a comfortable position. Sometimes, it may be necessary for Advanced Life Support Teams (ALS) or paramedics to attend. They should continue to evaluate the respiratory distress a patient may be in an intubate or continue with ventilation if required. They should also draw blood, which can be checked for levels of carboxyhemoglobin. While taking blood, they should continue to administer 100% oxygen and also administer saline through intravenous drips. If poisoning is severe, paramedics should prepare for possible seizures and provide Valium if needed. An ECG may also be necessary particularly if there is reason to believe they are having cardiac difficulties. Common cardiac problems include T wave abnormalities, ST segment depressions, PVCs and atrial fibrillation. If the patient is unconscious or seizing, they have to immediately be classed as severely poisoned. In this case, direct transport to a Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy facility may be the best course of action, although oxygen has to continue to be administered on the way to this facility.
Carbon Monoxide Facts - Prevention and Conclusion
Many lives could be saved, as well as the fact that disabilities could be prevented if people know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and if they know how to prevent it from happening in the first place. The carbon monoxide facts should tell everyone that they have to regularly check their fuel using appliances at home, ensure the flues and chimneys aren't blocked and check whether flames are the right color (blue, rather than yellow). Furthermore, only those devices designed for heating should be used for this purpose. These simple steps could truly save lives. By knowing the danger is there and by understanding what the nature of this danger actually is can it be possible for people to start saving lives.