Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Definition

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that is found in combustion fumes. Inhaling too much carbon monoxide results in poisoning, which can be fatal.
Carbon Monoxide Binding to Hemoglobin
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Causes

Carbon monoxide is easily absorbed through the lungs. Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood to the entire body. Carbon monoxide binds tightly with hemoglobin and takes the place of the oxygen. Tissue then becomes starved for oxygen. Brain tissue is very much at risk.Faulty or improperly vented equipment causes a build up of carbon monoxide in semi- or enclosed spaces. Exposure can be the result of:
  • Motor vehicle engines that are left running inside an enclosed garage
  • Any heating and cooking devices that burn coal, wood, or gas
  • Barbecue grills, gas grills, or camp stoves used inside your home, garage, or basement
  • Gas oven ranges used to heat your home when the power goes out
  • Power generators used inside your home, garage, or basement

Risk Factors

Carbon monoxide poisoning is more common in infants or older people. Other factors that may increase your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
  • Living in a cold external environment
  • Having a heart or lung condition
  • Smoking

Symptoms

Symptoms related to carbon monoxide poisoning are usually vague. They can be split into acute and chronic symptoms.

Acute Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Disturbed vision
  • Wheezing
  • Cough
  • Hoarse voice
  • Loss of balance
  • Joint pain

Chronic Symptoms

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Headache
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Disturbed vision
  • Loss of appetite
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Lightheadedness or vertigo
  • Tiredness
  • Memory loss
  • Mood disorder and emotional distress
  • Diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • Reduced sex drive

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