Every year, accidental non-fire-related carbon monoxide poisoning claims the lives of over 150 people in the United States. This silent killer is colorless and odorless which makes it even deadlier. Read on to learn what to do in case of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to prevent it.
First Aid: What To Do If Someone Got CO Poisoning
There are several steps you should take if someone gets carbon monoxide poisoning.
Step One: Get Them Fresh Air
The first thing you should do is get the person fresh air. A sufficient supply of oxygen is vital to an individual’s survival after exposure to carbon monoxide. If possible, move the person away from the carbon monoxide-infected area so they can get fresh air. If the person is unconscious, check if they have sustained any injuries before moving them. If you have identified the source of the carbon monoxide leak, turn it off or seal it immediately.
Step Two: Call 911
After stabilizing the person, call 911 immediately. Give them important details like your location and the individual’s condition. You can also ask for first aid tips and how to manage the situation before help arrives.
Step Three: If Necessary, Begin CPR
If the individual has passed out, begin CPR. CPR is necessary for carbon monoxide victims, especially if they are not breathing or not breathing normally. It is crucial to stabilize the victim’s condition before seeking professional help. Perform CPR for about a minute if you are alone. If there is someone else, have them call for help while you perform CPR. If the victim is a child, perform CPR for children. You are required to continue with CPR until the individual starts breathing again. Do so while you wait for help to arrive.
How To Perform CPR
- Open the victim’s airway by tilting their head back with one hand while lifting their chin with the other.
- Check for breathing by placing your ear near the victim’s mouth and nose while looking at their chest to see if it rises and falls.
- If the victim is not breathing, start CPR immediately by giving 30 chest compressions.
- Place the heel of one hand on the center of the victim’s chest (between the nipples), and interlace your other hand on top.
- Push down hard and fast (at least 2 inches deep and at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute) on the victim’s chest with your arms straight and your shoulders directly over your hands.
- After 30 compressions, open the victim’s airway again and give 2 rescue breaths.
- Pinch the victim’s nose shut, place your mouth over their mouth, and blow enough air to make their chest rise.
- Repeat the cycle of 30 compressions and 2 rescue breaths until EMS arrives or the victim begins breathing on their own.
Step Four: Follow Up
Once help arrives, the individual will be taken in for emergency treatment. At the hospital, the patient is treated with 100% oxygen. The kind of treatment used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning depends on the level of exposure. Besides, oxygen is delivered in various ways. If the individual has suffered mild carbon monoxide poisoning, oxygen is delivered by mask. However, if the victim has suffered severe carbon monoxide exposure, they may need to be placed in a high-temperature, full-body chamber to force oxygen into their system. This is crucial for the patient’s stability.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Most people don’t know how to check for carbon monoxide poisoning because the gas is colorless and odorless. There are several symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure and side effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. Remember that carbon monoxide exposure symptoms vary depending on the level of exposure. If the exposure to carbon monoxide is low, victims might develop the following:
- Light headaches
- Nausea and vomiting
However, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are a little different when the exposure is too high. Individuals exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide poisoning may experience;
- Difficulty in breathing
- Grey-blue or cherry-red skin coloration
- Reduced levels of response that may result in complete unresponsiveness
Carbon Monoxide Awareness video by Mayo Clinic.
How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by taking some essential precautions.
- Install and regularly maintain carbon monoxide detectors inside your home. Place them in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home.
- Replace the batteries in the carbon monoxide detectors twice a year and test them regularly.
- Have all fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces, stoves, and heaters, installed and regularly maintained by a professional. Replace damaged or faulty appliances immediately.
- Never operate gas-powered appliances or generators indoors, including in garages or enclosed spaces. Use them only in well-ventilated areas away from doors, windows, and vents.
- Ensure that all vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow and other debris.
- Avoid running your car in an enclosed garage, even with the garage door open. The exhaust pipe should be clear of snow or debris.
- Educate yourself and your family members about the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and the appropriate action to take in case of an emergency.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Safety FAQ
Can you treat carbon monoxide poisoning at home?
It is possible to treat carbon monoxide poisoning at home, especially if the exposure is low. Fresh oxygen may be all a person needs to recover from mild carbon monoxide poisoning. However, more advanced measures like face masks might be needed for severe carbon monoxide poisoning. This means professional attention is required for such cases.
How to check for CO leaks in a home?
Some of the ways to know if there are carbon monoxide leaks in a home include the following;
- Dark and sooty staining around gas appliances
- Orange and yellow flames come from your gas appliances instead of the usual blue flame
- Pilot lights frequently blow out
- Solid fuel burns slower than usual
- Increased condensation on windows
- The room gets stuffy and lacks fresh air
Is CO poisoning dangerous?
Carbon monoxide poisoning is dangerous for your health. Carbon monoxide poisoning displaces oxygen in your blood and deprives the brain, heart, and other crucial organs of oxygen. Carbon monoxide can overwhelm you in minutes if the poisoning is not managed. You will lose consciousness and suffocate due to excessive carbon monoxide exposure.
How is it treated?
Carbon monoxide poisoning is treated through a process called hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This treatment is often used in cases of excessive carbon monoxide exposure. It involves breathing pure oxygen in a chamber for a certain amount of time. The air pressure in oxygen chambers is two to three times higher than usual. The high pressure is meant to force oxygen into the system and replace carbon monoxide.
How does CO poisoning make you feel?
Well, the common carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include dizziness, headaches, weakness, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, chest pains, nausea and vomiting, disorientation, and loss of consciousness.
What does carbon monoxide smell like?
Carbon monoxide has no odor, taste, or color. This is why it can be challenging to tell if there is a carbon monoxide leak in your house.
What Are the potential sources of CO leaks in the home?
Some of the potential causes of carbon monoxide leaks in homes include the following;
- Water heaters
- Grills, generators, power tools, lawn equipment
- Ovens and gas stoves
- Clothes dryers
- Motor vehicles
- Wood stoves