Treatment For Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If you think you have carbon monoxide poisoning, it is incredibly important to seek immediate medical advice. Do not wait for an appointment to be available at your family doctor's office, but go straight to hospital. Here, the right treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning can be provided to you as soon as you need it. Your symptoms will be quite telling, but medical professionals will usually also take blood samples to confirm it. This will also allow them to measure how high the concentrations of carboxyhemoglobin in your blood are. If it is above 30%, you have had severe exposure. The level of exposure will determine what treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning is most suitable to your needs. Usually, if there is only a case of mild poisoning, no hospital treatment will be needed, but medical advice must still be obtained. Let's take a look at the different types of treatment you may receive.
Treatment for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Standard Oxygen Therapy
Usually when people are exposed to a high level of carbon monoxide, they are treated with standard oxygen therapy. This means that they will be given 100% pure oxygen through a mask. When you consider that normal breathing air contains just 21% oxygen, you will understand how oxygen treatment can help your cells to overcome the poisoning. What carbon monoxide does when it is in the body is attach itself to the hemoglobin, making it impossible for oxygen to be carried through the body anymore. By then exposing the body to high levels of oxygen, the hemoglobin is able to fight off the carbon monoxide and starts to function properly again. This treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning will continue until the levels of carboxhemoglobin levels have decreases to below 10%. At this point, the body can once again heal itself instead.
Treatment for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (sometimes referred to as HBOT) literally floods the body with nothing but pure oxygen. This is designed to help it overcome the shortage of oxygen it is experiencing due to carbon monoxide poisoning. This type of treatment is reasonably controversial, because there is no evidence to suggest Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy has any long term benefits as treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning. This is particularly true in cases of severe poisoning. This is why most medical professionals will generally offer standard oxygen therapy instead. However, there are certain situations in which Huperbaric Oxygen Therapy is recommended. If the exposure to carbon monoxide has been prolonged and severe, and where nerve damage is suspected, this type of treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning may be the best option. Usually, decisions are made on a patient to patient basis.
Treatment for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Complications
Scientific research into the long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning is still taking place. This is because it is very hard to determine where the cause of long term ill health lies. It could be due to acute poisoning or to chronic poisoning. In the latter case, how long is prolonged and at which level? Treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning is helped to keep some of the known long term effects at bay. These mainly include neurological problems, including memory loss, changes in emotional responses and decreased intellectual capabilities. Serious complications of prolonged exposure can include heart problems as well as brain damage and it can be fatal. Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer for good reason, since it can kill without ever been seen, felt or smelt. Some of the acute signs and symptoms of severe carbon monoxide poisoning can include shortness of breath, pains in the chest area, fits and seizures as well as a complete loss of consciousness. How severe these acute symptoms are depends on how much carbon monoxide a patient is exposed to and how long they were exposed.
Long term complications arise in some 10 to 15% of people who have severe carbon monoxide poisoning. Brain damage is one of the most common complications, particularly difficulties in concentration and memory problems. It has also been known to lead to visual and auditory impairment. In very rare cases, exposure can lead to Parkinsonism. This is a neurological disorder that has the same symptoms as Parkinson's, such as shaking, tremors, slow movement and stiffness. However, it is not Parkinson's, which is a degenerative disorder of the brain usually associated with aging.
Heart problems are also very common in those who have had long term exposure to carbon monoxide. Usually, this is caused by a blockage in the blood supply to the heart, or a buildup of atheroma (fatty substance) in the arteries leading to the heart. Many who have had severe carbon monoxide poisoning develop angina and if the arteries to the heart eventually block completely, it can lead to a heart attack. One of the main reasons why immediate treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning is so important is because it can cause significant harm to unborn babies. If an infant is exposed to carbon monoxide during pregnancy, they can have a very low birth weight which can lead to serious complications and death. They are also at increased risk of perinatal death, which is either a stillbirth or a death within the first four weeks of their lives. Babies who have been exposed to carbon monoxide while in the womb are often reported to have mild, moderate or severe behavioral problems later on in life.
These issues clearly demonstrate the importance of adequate treatment. Although treatment is very limited and the only options there are is to replace the carbon monoxide with oxygen, this is better than nothing. Very often, people who have had severe carbon monoxide poisoning will continue to be monitored by medical professionals for prolonged periods of time, to determine whether or not there are any lasting negative effects on their overall health. Remember that prevention is better than cure, which is why everyone should have a good understanding of what carbon monoxide poisoning is and how it should be prevented.