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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

In the UK, every year studies show that there are 200 admissions with carbon monoxide poisoning which can lead up to 50 deaths.

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas with no smell or taste, so it's very to detect if you are being exposed. It is only when individuals become symptomatic after exposure and they are tested, do they find out they have been exposed to the gas. 

By breathing in carbon monoxide, it enters the bloodstream and attaches to haemoglobin. Haemoglobin’s are part of the red blood cells that distribute oxygen around the body feeding the cells. When carbon monoxide mixes with haemoglobin it forms carboxyhaemoglobin and is unable to carry or deliver oxygen to the cells or tissues within the body encouraging them to die.

Video support 

Symptoms of carbon dioxide poisoning
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tiredness and confusion
  • Stomach pain
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

Exposure to a low level of carbon monoxide can produce similar symptoms to flu or food poisoning; however, you do not get a fever. The longer you are exposed to carbon monoxide, the more severe your symptoms can become which can eventually lead to unconsciousness. In certain cases, if there is a large amount of carbon monoxide present it can be less than two hours before consciousness is lost.

Longterm exposure

Long-term exposure can lead to neurological symptoms including lack of concentration, emotional changes, irritability, emotional and irrational decision making.

Symptoms of long-term exposure    

Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can cause the following more severe symptoms:

  • Impaired mental state
  • Vertigo (a spinning sensation)
  • Ataxia (the loss of physical coordination caused by underlying brain damage)
  • Breathlessness and a high heart rate
  • Chest pain (caused by angina or a heart attack)
  • Seizures (a burst of electrical activity in the brain that causes involuntary muscle spasm)
  • Loss of consciousness

Word from Our GP

“Remember if you think you have been exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide, go straight to our local Accident and Emergency Department.”

Dr Thomas, Pencoed Surgery.

Things to remember

  1. If you smell gas call 0800 111999 immediately and evacuate the property 
  2. Never attempt to fix or maintain your boiler or gas appliances. All work needs to be conducted by a qualified engineer. 
  3. For more information on Carbon Monoxide poisoning vist the NHS Website here

Read our coffee break interview with Dr Owain Thomas on the what to do if you think you've been exposed to carbon monoxide here.

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