More than 50 percent of all carbon monoxide incidents occur within homes, and 20 percent occur in businesses of various types. If you believe someone you know or love is currently suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, follow these treatment steps.
4 Steps to Take If You Suspect Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Move the victim(s) to fresh air. While this will only relieve immediate symptoms of acute poisoning, remember that if you have chronic poisoning that is low level and that has gone on for some time, your deterioration may be gradual, so it could be some time before you notice.
- Activate the Fire/Emergency Medical Service System, if victim(s) are experiencing any symptoms. If the fire department is called and they have the equipment, ask them to record the CO PPM (parts per million of carbon monoxide in the air). This could be used to help your doctor diagnose your illness. Also, should you decide to pursue a legal claim, the information may well help your legal team.
- Monitor for respiratory problems and get a COHB test to check for carbon monoxide levels in the blood.
- Ventilate the affected area.
Upon arrival, it is recommended that Basic Life Support (BLS) (e.g. EMT) personnel should:
- Evaluate for respiratory tract irritation, bronchitis, or pneumonic.
- Administer humidified 100% oxygen by tight- fitting face mask. Assist ventilations as needed.
- Monitor vital signs.
- Monitor level of consciousness.
- Consider early transport to a Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber (for severely poisoned patients).
- Place the patient in a position of comfort and keep them warm.
It is recommended that Advanced Life Support (A.L.S.) (e.g. Paramedic) personnel should:
- Further evaluate the respiratory tract for dysfunction or possible compromise – intubate and assist ventilation as needed.
- Draw a blood sample for Carboxyhemoglobin analysis.
- Provide 100% humidified oxygen, and do not delay administration of oxygen while performing blood sampling.
- Administer normal saline or other crystalline parental fluids at 2/3 to 3/4 of normal maintenance rates.
- Prepare for the possibility of generalized seizures in severe cases. Give diazepam (Valium) in 2-10 mg. doses (as needed) to terminate and control seizure activity.
- Perform electrocardiogram monitoring of the patient, and be especially aware of ventricular ectopic beats and heart blocks. EKG changes seen most commonly in CO patients are ST segment depression, T-wave abnormalities, atrial fibrillation, and PVCs.
- Any patient found unconscious, seizing, or with EKG changes and with an associated history should be treated as having severe carbon monoxide poisoning until proven otherwise.
- Consider direct transport to a Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy facility, with Oxygen being administered en route, for severely poisoned patients.
If the patient’s history suggests any possibility of CO Poisoning, treat him/her as though they were exposed.