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    Carbon Monoxide (CO)

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    High blood carbon monoxide values are caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms become more severe as the carbon monoxide levels increase.

    Symptoms related to high carbon monoxide values 1
    Percent of total hemoglobin Symptoms

    20%-30%

    Headache, nausea, vomiting, and trouble making decisions

    30%-40%

    Dizziness, muscle weakness, vision problems, confusion, and increased heart rate and breathing rate

    50%-60%

    Loss of consciousness

    Over 60%

    Seizures, coma, death

    Women and children usually have fewer red blood cells than men do. So women and children may have more severe symptoms at lower levels.

    What Affects the Test

    • If you smoke, you already have some carbon monoxide in your blood.
    • People who are regularly exposed to car exhaust, such as taxi drivers and traffic police, often have high carbon monoxide levels (8% to 12%).

    What To Think About

    • Anyone who may have been exposed to carbon monoxide and has symptoms should be tested for carbon monoxide poisoning. For example, you should be tested if you live in a house with an old heating system and you have ongoing headaches.
    • If you think you may have carbon monoxide poisoning, you should leave the place of likely exposure and get oxygen to breathe before you are tested.
    • You may also have other tests, such as an arterial blood gases test and a complete blood count. The blood gases test may be done to find out if you have carbon monoxide poisoning or another disease that causes similar symptoms.

    Citations

    1. Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

    Other Works Consulted

    • Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.

    • Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

    • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.

    ByHealthwise Staff
    Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
    Specialist Medical ReviewerR. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology

    Current as ofAugust 7, 2014

    1 | 2 | 3

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: August 07, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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