Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Topic Overview
How is carbon monoxide poisoning diagnosed?
It can be hard to know if you have
carbon monoxide poisoning. The same symptoms can be caused by flu or other
problems. In the winter months, doctors may suspect carbon monoxide poisoning
in people who complain of severe headache, nausea, or dizziness. This is
especially true if other household members or coworkers have the same symptoms. Even pets in the home may get sick.
your doctor suspects carbon monoxide poisoning, he or she can order a blood
test that measures the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood. You may have
other blood tests to check your overall health and to look for problems caused
by carbon monoxide.
How is it treated?
The best treatment is oxygen
therapy. Breathing pure oxygen can bring the oxygen level in the blood back to
normal. There are two kinds of oxygen therapy:
- 100% oxygen therapy. For this treatment, you breathe oxygen through a
mask. This is the most common treatment.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy. For this treatment, you lie inside a
chamber that delivers oxygen under high pressure. This quickly
reduces carbon monoxide levels in the blood.
With quick treatment, most people recover within a few
days. But long-term problems can show up later. Be sure to tell your
doctor about any changes in vision, coordination, or behavior that occur in the
weeks after treatment.
How can you prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?
Many people die every year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
There are some easy steps you can take to reduce your risk. One of the most important is to see a doctor right away if you think you have symptoms.
Safe use of vehicles
- Do not leave your car running in the garage, even if the
garage door is open.
- Do not ride in the back of a pickup truck with a camper
- Do not swim behind an idling boat.
Safe use of fuel-burning tools and appliances
- Have all fuel-burning appliances (such as oil or gas heaters,
stoves, water heaters, and space heaters, fireplaces, and woodstoves) inspected
- Check chimneys, flues, and vents regularly to make sure they
are in good shape, properly connected, and not blocked.
- Never use a kerosene or propane heater in an enclosed area,
such as a camper, motor home, trailer, or tent.
- Never use a gas or charcoal grill indoors.
- Never use a gas oven to heat your home.
- Do not close a fireplace or stove damper before the fire is
- Do not use gas-powered generators, lawn equipment, or engines
in enclosed areas.