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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Topic Overview

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 shell.
  • 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 each year.
  • 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 completely out.
  • Do not use gas-powered generators, lawn equipment, or engines in enclosed areas.

Carbon monoxide detectors

  • Consider putting carbon monoxide detectors in your home near sleeping areas. Look for ones endorsed by Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • If you install a detector, follow the directions closely. Know what to do if the alarm sounds.
  • Understand that carbon monoxide detectors are a backup safety measure. They do not replace the need to check appliances regularly and use them safely.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 01, 2012
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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