Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when carbon monoxide builds up to dangerous levels in your bloodstream, resulting in tissue damage and eventually death if left untreated. Unfortunately, carbon monoxide, which is a gas, is odorless, colorless, and tasteless and comes from burning wood, gasoline, charcoal, and other types of fuels. Poorly ventilated spaces are more likely to trap this dangerous gas than other areas, which is why it is important for homes, apartments, and businesses to have carbon monoxide gas detectors in place.
Risk Factors for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
There are certain factors that may indicate whether you or someone you know is at an increased risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. For starters, certain groups of people are more vulnerable than others, including the following:
- unborn children
- young children
- individuals with chronic heart disease
Causes of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when you inhale combustion fumes. When this happens, your body ends up replacing the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide, which may prevent oxygen from getting to your organs and tissues.
Fuel-burning products and appliances are primarily responsible for producing carbon monoxide in homes, although carbon monoxide is only a real cause for concern if the products and appliances are used in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If you have carbon monoxide poisoning, the chances are you may experience some of the following unpleasant symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
In severe cases, carbon monoxide poisoning may also result in irreversible brain damage or death.
Diagnosis of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If you think you may have carbon monoxide poisoning, reach out for medical help immediately. To confirm that you have carbon monoxide poisoning, your doctor may collect a blood sample to verify.
Treatment of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If you have carbon monoxide poisoning, you will receive a variety of different types of treatments to help alleviate headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, shortness of breath, and other symptoms. In many cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, the doctor may recommend breathing in pure oxygen.
Once you seek medical care in an emergency room or another medical care setting, you may receive pure oxygen through a mask to help oxygen reach your tissues or organs affected by the carbon monoxide poisoning. If you're struggling to breathe on your own, your doctor may hook you up to a ventilator. Depending on your condition, you may also be placed in a hyperbaric chamber to help speed the replacement of carbon monoxide with oxygen in your blood.
Prognosis of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If you have carbon monoxide poisoning, your prognosis largely depends on how long you inhaled the gas and how soon you sought treatment. However, it's important to note that even with prompt treatment, you may still develop brain damage and suffer from complications, including memory loss, confusion, or even psychiatric problems.
Complications of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Depending on your condition and type of exposure, you may suffer the following complications:
- Permanent brain damage
- Heart damage