Carbon monoxide poisoning

Chest | Emergency Medicine | Carbon monoxide poisoning (Disease)


Carbon monoxide poisoning is an illness caused by exposure to too much carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. Carbon monoxide results from incomplete combustion of organic matter due to insufficient oxygen supply to enable complete oxidation to carbon dioxide (CO2).

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be acute or chronic.

The initial symptoms of acute carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, malaise, and fatigue. Increasing exposure produces cardiac abnormalities including fast heart rate, low blood pressure, and cardiac arrhythmia; central nervous system symptoms include delirium, hallucinations, dizziness, unsteady gait, confusion, seizures, central nervous system depression, unconsciousness, respiratory arrest, and death.

Causes and Risk factors

Although the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can be subtle, the condition is a life-threatening medical emergency. Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by inhaling combustion fumes. Normally the amount of carbon monoxide produced by these sources isnt cause for concern. But if appliances arent kept in good working order or if theyre used in a closed or partially closed space the carbon monoxide can build to dangerous levels. Smoke inhalation during a fire also can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Exposure to carbon monoxide may be particularly dangerous for: babies, children and older people.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Chronic exposure to relatively low levels of carbon monoxide may cause persistent headaches, lightheadedness, depression, confusion, memory loss, nausea and vomiting.

Treatment is usually in breathing pure oxygen and, in some cases, spending time in pressurized oxygen chamber. ...

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