By Krisca C. Te
Today, more homes are equipped with carbon monoxide monitors that help alert homeowners that their house may be affected with this deadly gas. Carbon monoxide cannot be seen or smelled so having a monitor is crucial. Still, even with a monitor, many people exposed to this dangerous gas become intoxicated from breathing bad air.
When a person has carbon monoxide poisoning, they typically have flu like symptoms. For this reason, many people initially believe that they are just sick with the flu. Specific signs include dizziness, nausea, weakness, loss of muscle control, and shortness of breath. Over time, as the intoxication becomes worse, they may lose consciousness, feel like they are suffocating, experience brain damage, or die.
If you respond to suspected carbon monoxide intoxication, there are certain things you can do immediately to treat the patient or revive the victim. The following are some emergency techniques to take if you are ever on scene of a carbon monoxide intoxication.
1. Get them away from the infected area — The first step in helping someone come to after carbon monoxide intoxication is to clear them from the space. The longer the person continues to inhale the carbon monoxide, the more dangerous it will be. When you are saving someone with carbon monoxide poisoning, getting them into open, fresh air will help them breathe easier.
2. Turn off any gas appliances — As you exit, it is important to turn off any appliances that use gas, such as a gas stove, or a propane grill. These appliances may be the cause of the carbon monoxide leak into the home, which could make others, including you, sick too.
3. Begin CPR — If the patient is not breathing, it is important to begin CPR immediately. This is the easiest and fastest way to help revive a person who fell out of consciousness or who may be suffocating.
4. Administer oxygen — Carbon monoxide binds to blood cells at a higher affinity than oxygen. This means that the faster you can administer oxygen, the faster the carbon monoxide symptoms may subside.
5. Continuously monitor for SpO2 and SpCO levels — Using a Pulse CO-oximeter, monitor the patient levels of SpO2 and SpCO. As you are monitoring these levels, it is important to document any findings regularly. This will help the treating doctors determine any patterns in changes, or show that their levels are steady with the treatment you provided.
Once you have treated the patient or brought them to a medical facility for treatment, it is important that you also get tested for possible poisoning. Being exposed to carbon monoxide, even for a short period, can still have an impact on your personal state. You may also be exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning sitting in the back of a car or ambulance with the patient that has carbon monoxide poisoning. If there is Pulse Co-oximetry available, you may want to take quick checks of your personal levels. After all, if you fall ill from the same poisoning, you cannot help the patient, which could have serious consequences.
Have you ever treated carbon monoxide poisoning? If so, what symptoms and signs did you see, and what treatment did you use to revive the patient?
Krisca Te works with Open Colleges Australia, the leading provider of TAFE and health & safety courses. When not working, you can find her on Google+ or spends the day with her baby boy.