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First Aid 2023

Carbon oxide: symptoms, what to do and how to avoid it

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Carbon oxide: symptoms, what to do and how to avoid it
Carbon oxide: symptoms, what to do and how to avoid it

Carbon monoxide is a type of toxic gas that has no smell or taste and therefore, when released into the environment, can cause serious poisoning without any warning, putting life at risk.

This type of gas is normally produced by burning some type of fuel, such as gas, oil, wood or coal, and thus it is more common for carbon monoxide poisoning to occur in winter, when using heaters or fireplaces to try to warm the atmosphere inside the house.

Thus, it is very important to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, to identify possible poisoning early and initiate appropriate treatment. In addition, it is also essential to know what situations can lead to the production of carbon monoxide in order to try to avoid them and thus prevent accidental poisoning.


Main symptoms

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Headache that gets worse;
  • Sensation of dizziness;
  • General malaise;
  • Fatigue and confusion;
  • Slight difficulty breathing.

Symptoms are more intense in those who are closer to the source of carbon monoxide production. In addition, the longer the gas is breathed, the more intense the symptoms will be, until eventually the person loses consciousness and passes out, which can happen up to 2 hours after the start of exposure.

Even when there is low concentration of carbon monoxide in the air, prolonged exposure can result in symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, mood swings, and loss of coordination.

How carbon monoxide affects he alth

When carbon monoxide is inspired, it reaches the lungs and there it dissolves in the blood, where it mixes with hemoglobin, an important component of blood that is responsible for transporting oxygen to different organs.

When this happens, hemoglobin is called carboxyhemoglobin and is no longer able to transport oxygen from the lungs to the organs, which ends up affecting the functioning of the entire body and can even cause injuries permanent in the brain. When intoxication is very prolonged or intense, this lack of oxygen can be life-threatening.

What to do in case of poisoning

Whenever carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, it is important to:

  1. Open the windows of the location to let in oxygen;
  2. Turn off the device that may be producing carbon monoxide;
  3. Lie with legs elevated above heart level to facilitate circulation to the brain;
  4. Going to the hospital for a detailed assessment and understanding if more specific treatment is needed.

If the person is unconscious and not breathing, cardiac massage should be started for resuscitation. Check out how to do cardiac massage correctly.

The evaluation in the hospital is usually done with a blood test that evaluates the percentage of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood. Values greater than 30% usually indicate severe poisoning, which needs to be treated in the hospital with oxygen administration until carboxyhemoglobin values are less than 10%.

How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Although poisoning by this type of gas is difficult to identify, as it has no smell or taste, there are some tips that can prevent it from happening. Some are:

  • Install a carbon monoxide detector indoors;
  • Having heating appliances outside the house, especially those that run on gas, wood or oil;
  • Avoid the use of heaters with flame inside the rooms;
  • Always keep a window slightly open when using a flame heater inside the house;
  • Always open the garage door before starting the car.

The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is greater in babies, children and the elderly, however it can happen to anyone, even the fetus, in the case of a pregnant woman, as the fetal cells absorb the carbon monoxide faster than an adult.

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