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Between 2010 and 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 2,244 deaths due to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. In 2015 alone, 393 deaths occurred.  Of those, 36 percent occurred during the winter months of December, January, and February. In addition, more than 20,000 people visit emergency rooms with carbon monoxide poisoning each year. The main treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning is oxygen. In many cases, the need for high oxygen levels under increased pressure means hyperbaric oxygen, or HBOT treatments.

Treatment of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

elements of carbon monoxide

The goal of treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning is to remove the CO from the body and replace it with oxygen. In mild cases, an oxygen mask delivering pure oxygen is enough. However, in severe cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, a simple air mask will not do. The FDA approved hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning, especially in patients where an oxygen mask does not relieve symptoms. HBOT is recommended in patients that show life-threatening cardiopulmonary complications, ongoing pain in the chest, altered consciousness, loss of consciousness, and a carboxyhemoglobin over 25 percent. The use of HBOT also reduces the delayed incidence of neuropsychiatric symptoms

Common Symptoms

Because carbon monoxide is an invisible gas with no smell or taste, most people are unaware of the exposure until symptoms develop.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • A dull headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
Person using a carbon monoxide alarm

In severe cases of poisoning, neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as dementia, psychosis, chorea, and amnestic syndrome, can develop says or weeks after exposure and can be permanent.

If you experience any of these symptoms and you do not have any other medical condition that could cause the symptoms, get yourself into fresh air as soon as possible. Long-term exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to permanent brain damage and even death. In homes where carbon monoxide is possible (such as homes with gas heat or fireplaces, charcoal grills, gas water heaters, gas stoves, and portable generators), carbon monoxide detectors can save your life.

Contact us for more information on HBOT and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.