Guest Author - A. Maria Hester, M.D.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is among the leading causes of poisoning death in America. While thousands of people intentionally poison themselves with this lethal gas, many others are unintentionally exposed to this toxin. Most unintentional cases occur when it is cold outdoors, during the winter months.
Inadvertent carbon monoxide poisoning is most frequently due to smoke inhalation, though heating systems which function poorly, gasoline-powered generators, and motor vehicles which are operated in a poorly ventilated area, such as parking garages also account for many cases. Even charcoal grills, if used improperly, can result in carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide binds to red blood cells with hundreds of times the affinity of oxygen, thus effectively competing with it and overpowering oxygenís ability to bind to the red blood cells that carry it throughout the body.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poising vary widely, and may include, but are not limited to the following:
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of consciousness
Consider purchasing a home carbon monoxide monitor with alarms. Even though you may not have the classic risk factors, such as running a generator in a poorly vented area, carbon monoxide has been known to seep into nearby buildings after an underground electrical cable fire. It has also been noted with increase frequency after hurricanes. Carbon monoxide detectors are inexpensive and easy to find at many hardware stores. The peace of mind they give is far more valuable than their cost in dollars and cents
Remember to always use caution when grilling or using other equipment that results in exhaust fumes or smoke.
Never run your car in a closed garage. As a matter of fact, before you even turn on the engine, make sure you have opened the garage door. Otherwise, you may become distracted and forget that the motor is running. It can happen to anyone and the results can be catastrophic. You may remember that you left something important in the house and run back in only to ultimately get distracted by something as simple as an unexpected telephone call from a long lost friend may grab your attention away from your car and you could be overcome by carbon monoxide before you know what happened.
While thousands of emergency room visits are attributable to carbon monoxide poisoning each year, in mild cases, carbon monoxide poisoning does not have to result in a horrendous outcome. However, even long after being afflicted with this poisoning, you may develop neurologic and behavioral abnormalities.