Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be so different and look like so many everyday health issues that “making the connection” to carbon monoxide as the source of the problem is almost always overlooked.
Carbon monoxide poisoning does have “obvious footprints” but recognizing carbon monoxide as the source of the problem isn’t as obvious as it may seem.
If a healthy person is exposed to a low level of CO, they typically begin to have difficulty focussing. Other initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning usually appear as a person becomes somewhat uncoordinated, feels quite exhausted, and/or has a mild frontal headache.
Then the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning get stronger as flu-like, food-poisoning-like, or alcohol-poisoning-like symptoms: headache, nausea, barfing, dizziness, exhaustion, mild incoherence, blurred sight, and brain fog.
The difficulty is, the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can also be caused by a large number of common health issues.
Making the connection to carbon monoxide exposure as the source of the problem is far less likely with mild cases (the majority of poisonings) such as:
1) multiple low level carbon monoxide exposures / poisonings inside a home, workplace, or vehicle
2) one individual with low, moderate, or perhaps a significant level of carbon monoxide poisoning
Exactly understanding the connection to carbon monoxide exposure as the source of “symptoms” is rather more likely when:
1) one individual with high or extreme levels of carbon monoxide poisoning is taken to hospital
2) a group of people from the same location are brought to emergency at the very same time, all showing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Compared to other health issues, the awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning is low. This ordinarily ends in a wrong diagnosis by doctors in ERs, hospitals, and medical offices. Health professionals simply don’t know enough about carbon monoxide poisoning.
Awareness in the general public about the indicators of carbon monoxide poisoning is also low. Unless the circumstances around the poisoning are completely clear, victims infrequently identify the root of their symptoms.
Shockingly, it is surprisingly common for extra damage to occur while the victim is in the ER or hospital with elevated levels of carbon monoxide still in their blood stream – something that could simply be treated by giving oxygen and/or placing them in a hyperbaric chamber.
Carbon monoxide interacts with hemoglobin (Hb) in red blood cells and forms carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). This is expressed as the proportion of red blood cells carrying carbon monoxide.
The connection between symptoms, percent carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) in the blood stream and levels of carbon monoxide in the air isn’t exact.
For more than ten years Bill Hart experienced symptoms of low level carbon monoxide exposure without knowing the real cause. He is passionate about helping raise awareness and helping those that need it find carbon monoxide treatment.
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