Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause a range of problems, from short term illness to long term damage and permanent damage.
Treatment for this type of poisoning depends largely upon the levels of carbon monoxide that have been breathed in and what effect the carbon monoxide poisoning has had upon the patient.
It is important to evacuate your home, office or car if you suspect that there is a carbon monoxide leak.
You should get in to the fresh air immediately, as breathing in this gas even for a short time can cause serious problems and even death.
Damage caused by carbon monoxide poisoning can cause short term symptoms such as:
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Fatigue and drowsiness;
- Chest pain;
- Loss of consciousness;
- Shortness of breath;
- Red colouration to skin.
Longer term symptoms and permanent damage can be far more serious. Carbon monoxide results in the dramatic reduction of oxygen within the blood and therefore causes the death of cells and starves major organs of oxygen.
This can result in:
- Damage to major organs such as the brain and heart and lungs;
- Confusion and memory loss;
- Personality and behavioural changes;
- Impairment of coordination skills;
- Impairment of vision;
- Loss of muscle and bladder control;
- Convulsions and seizures.
The main treatment for chronic carbon monoxide poisoning is 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. The first is 100% oxygen therapy, which is the most common treatment and is administered via a tight-fitting mask. Sometime, mechanical ventilation is required with 100% oxygen therapy, and this entails having a tube inserted in to the windpipe.
The second type of oxygen therapy is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and this is where the oxygen is administered in an enclosed chamber. Because this form of oxygen therapy works quickly to reduce CO levels in the blood, it is used in more chronic cases of carbon monoxide poisoning and can reduce the risks of permanent damage.
Other treatments for carbon monoxide poisoning are dependant upon the problems caused by the CO levels in the blood. For example, low levels of CO poisoning may cause nausea and sickness, in which case drugs can be prescribed to treat the nausea and sickness. If the CO poisoning has caused fatigue then stimulants can be prescribed. And if the carbon monoxide has caused seizures, anticonvulsants can be prescribed. The medication prescribed will depend upon the damage and illness caused by the presence of carbon monoxide in the blood.