Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and poisonous gas, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the “invisible killer.” Carbon monoxide poisoning is a common, industrial hazard, but many people are injured or killed by the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning at home and on vacation while in hotels, garages, cars, and boats. Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, and, unfortunately, severe damage – and even death – can occur before you even realize what is happening.
Signs of CO Poisoning & High-Risk Individuals
Often, several members of the same family or those in a given building will complain of the same symptoms. Children are thought to be more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning than adults. Some people may not suspect that CO poisoning is occurring until major symptoms appear. Carbon Monoxide poisoning can mimic gastroenteritis (nausea and vomiting). Other manifestations may cause the appearance of what may appear to be a neurological or psychiatric disorder. High risk groups include infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone with a previous history of cardiac insufficiency or chronic obstructive lung disease.
Cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) is also a common result of severe carbon monoxide poisoning. This life-threatening condition entails the destruction of brain cells by compressing them into themselves within the cranial compartment. Drugs that are normally used for the treatment of cerebral edema, like Dexamethasone and Mannitol, do not seem to be of assistance in the treatment of CO induced cerebral edema. Studies have shown that cerebral edema caused by CO poisoning can cause delayed neurological problems that involve the “higher” or cognitive functions, and may cause a Parkinsonian-like brain syndrome.