Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a condition when carbon monoxide gas is inhaled in large quantities, causing certain complaints or symptoms. This condition often occurs when a person is exposed to acid in a room that is not properly ventilated.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas produced from various processes, including the burning of coal, wood, and the use of fuel in motorized vehicles. This gas is odorless or colorless, and cannot be felt.

When a person is exposed to carbon monoxide gas, the blood's ability to bind oxygen will decrease. This is because carbon monoxide gas is more easily bound to hemoglobin so that the blood will form carboxyhaemoglobin (COHb).

The more COHb that is formed, the less oxygen will be circulated throughout the body. As a result, the body will experience a lack of oxygen ( hypoxia ).

Causes of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Smoke that comes from burning coal, wood, motor vehicle fuel, or household appliances, will produce gases that can increase carbon monoxide levels in the air. This condition is dangerous if the smoke from combustion gathers in a closed room without ventilation.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if someone inhales carbon monoxide in excessive amounts or for a long time. Some conditions that can increase a person's risk of experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning are:

  • Was at the scene of the fire
  • Being in an unventilated room with a car or a running generator
  • Being in a stationary car with the engine running, with windows or doors tightly closed and a leak in the exhaust or exhaust system
  • Swim in the vicinity of a jet ski or boat with an engine running
  • Using improperly installed oil, charcoal, wood or gas burning equipment in a poorly ventilated room
  • Smoking shisha in a closed room
  • Cooking in an unventilated kitchen
  • Cleaning paint with a cleaning fluid containing  methylene chloride  ( dichloromethane )

Anyone can experience carbon monoxide poisoning. However, pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly, smokers, people with respiratory problems, people with heart disease , and someone who lives at high altitudes are more at risk of experiencing more severe complaints and effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

At first, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are not obvious because they are similar to the symptoms of food poisoning or flu symptoms without fever. Symptoms will usually subside when the sufferer moves away from the gas source. Conversely, the symptoms can get worse if the amount of carbon monoxide gas that is inhaled increases.

When experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, a person will experience hypoxia or lack of oxygen. Some of the early symptoms that arise due to this condition are:

  • Tension headache
  • Hard to breathe
  • Fatigue
  • Dizzy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach ache
  • Gastric pains
  • Bewildered

If this condition continues and more carbon monoxide gas is inhaled, further symptoms will appear, such as:

  • Loss of balance and coordination of the body
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle ache
  • Visual impairment
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking
  • Worsening dizziness
  • seizures
  • Fast heart rate ( tachycardia )
  • Heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias)
  • Loss of consciousness to fainting

Although it rarely occurs, there is one characteristic sign that can indicate carbon monoxide poisoning, which is a bright red rash on the skin or often called  cherry red skin .

When to see a doctor

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are mild at first. However, if left untreated and exposure to carbon monoxide continues, this condition can be dangerous and requires emergency action.

Check with your doctor if you experience the initial symptoms as mentioned above. If you see someone experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately save them and take them to the emergency room, or call an ambulance to get medical help.

Diagnosis of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause a variety of symptoms. Therefore, the doctor will ask the patient or the person who accompanied him regarding the activities carried out by the patient before symptoms appeared.

There are several things that can be a sign that someone has carbon monoxide poisoning, namely:

  • Live with or be around people with the same complaints
  • Being in an environment that can increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • In some patients with mild complaints, the symptoms will subside when they move away from the suspected source of carbon monoxide gas

In patients who are suspected of having carbon monoxide poisoning, the doctor will run a blood gas analysis  to see the levels of carboxyhemoglobin  in the blood.

If the COHb level in a patient is 3–4% higher than normal levels, it is certain that the patient has carbon monoxide poisoning. In patients who smoke, a COHb value that exceeds 10–15% is considered a case of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Blood gas analysis can also assess the level of oxygen in the blood. This is to assess the severity of hypoxia experienced by the patient.

In addition to blood gas analysis, tests to assess the function of other organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain, can also be performed. This will be adjusted to the degree of carbon monoxide poisoning and the severity of the hypoxia experienced.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Treatment

Carbon monoxide poisoning will be treated with oxygen therapy. The purpose is to help increase the level of oxygen to the body's organs and tissues.

In oxygen therapy, the patient will be given oxygen through an oxygen mask, or with a ventilator if the patient cannot breathe on his own. This therapy can be done until the  carboxyhemoglobin level  in the blood drops below 10%.

Meanwhile, for patients who are pregnant, patients diagnosed with severe carbon monoxide poisoning, patients suspected of having nerve damage, or patients with  cardiac ischemia  , doctors will provide hyperbaric oxygen therapy ( TOHB ).

TOHB is a therapy that is carried out in a chamber filled with 100% oxygen with a pressure higher than the pressure in an ordinary room. TOHB is useful for preventing damage to heart and brain tissue.

Complications of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

About 10–15% of people with carbon monoxide poisoning can experience long-term complications. Some of the complications that can occur include:

  • Brain damage.
    This condition can cause vision or hearing problems, impaired memory and concentration, and trigger Parkinson's disease.
  • Heart disease
    Coronary heart disease makes the coronary arteries clogged and can cause  a heart attack .
  • Disturbance to the fetus
    Carbon monoxide poisoning in pregnant women can have an impact on the fetus they contain, for example babies born with low weight , miscarriage, or even  die in the womb .

Prevention of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, take the following precautions:

  • Avoid being in a tightly closed stationary car with the engine running.
  • Do not burn or grill anything indoors.
  • Do not run the car engine in the garage for a long time even if the garage door is open.
  • Avoid swimming or being near jet skis or boats with running engines.
  • Avoid sitting for a long time near heating devices that use gas, kerosene, or wood fires.
  • Install adequate ventilation in the room, especially when there is a device such as a  water heater .
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in areas prone to carbon monoxide leaks.
  • Check all heating devices or those that use fuel on a regular basis, to ensure that all of these devices are in good condition.
  • Place and install the portable generator or generator outside the house, or in a well-ventilated room away from the house.

Apart from doing the things above, you need to recognize some signs that could indicate a carbon monoxide gas leak, such as:

  • There are yellow-brown stains around the pot or stove
  • The color of the fire becomes yellow and not blue
  • The room filled with smoke
  • A fire outbreak occurs when you first turn on the tool or machine

If you feel that there has been a carbon monoxide gas leak in a building or house, immediately open all windows and doors, then get out quietly. After that, contact the authorities and immediately go to the nearest hospital to make sure you don't experience carbon monoxide poisoning.

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