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Definition of «Carbon monoxide poisoning»

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning: Poisoning with carbon monoxide, a tasteless odorless gas that is a byproduct of combustion. Carbon monoxide acts as a poison by competing with oxygen for binding sites on hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the more remote tissues of the body and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. On inhalation, carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin with a binding affinity 200--270 times greater than that of oxygen.

Carbon monoxide poisoning may be more common than is currently recognized. It is conservatively estimated that in the US there are at least 200 deaths per year from carbon monoxide poisoning. The tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis died when his Long Island cottage was filled with carbon monoxide from a swimming pool heater in 1994. In 2000 a man who disconnected his household carbon monoxide detector because it kept going off for no apparent reason came home to find six people -- including three family members -- dead of fumes from the furnace.

Patients may have symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning but be unaware of the basis of their symptoms. The early symptoms are quite nonspecific. They can resemble the symptoms of motion sickness or heat exhaustion and include prolonged headache, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. At higher concentrations of carbon monoxide in the blood, the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can include seizures, coma, and death. These can occur after just minutes of even outdoor exposure to exhaust.

The first aid treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning is to move the victim to fresh air away from the source of carbon monoxide AND summon emergency medical service. The medical treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning is oxygen, usually with a facemask. The carbon monoxide levels in the blood are checked until they are low enough for safety. For severe carbon monoxide poisoning, a pressure chamber may be used to achieve higher doses of oxygen.

See also: Houseboat carbon monoxide poisoning.

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