Carbon monoxide is a gas that has no smell, color or taste. The gas is produced by burning material containing carbon. It is poisonous and can make you unwell or even kill under high exposure. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when you breathe in carbon monoxide and it enters your bloodstream. It binds with the haemoglobin in the red blood cells to form carboxyhemoglobin. This prevents the red blood cells from carrying oxygen to other parts of the body. The lack of oxygen in the body can lead to the death of cells and tissue failure, which can be fatal. Some of the main sources of carbon monoxide in the home include gas water heaters, charcoal grills, kerosene space heaters, propane stoves and heaters, diesel and gasoline powered generators and cigarette smoke. So, if the gas is invisible, has no taste and is colorless, how do you detect it? Below are some tips on how to detect carbon monoxide.
Know the Effects of Carbon Monoxide on Your Body
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can vary from mild to severe depending on the level of exposure. It is usually hard to detect since the symptoms are usually similar to other medical conditions. The first sign of poisoning is usually a tension type headache. You might also experience dizziness, nausea, stomach pain, confusion and exhaustion, and shortness of breath. Under low exposure, your symptoms might be similar to those of the flu and food poisoning. However, you won’t experience high fever as is the case with flu.
As the levels of exposure increase, the symptoms gradually get worse. You may lose your vision, memory, balance and even consciousness. It doesn’t take long for this to happen when the levels of this poisonous gas are high. Within two hours of breathing in carbon monoxide, you will have passed out.
If you’re exposed to low levels of carbon monoxide for long, you can display neurological symptoms such as difficulty concentrating or thinking and getting overly emotional. You will become easily irritable or depressed and might make irrational decisions.
Wondering how to detect carbon monoxide poisoning? If you have a working carbon monoxide at home, then you should know it immediately with the alarm. Here are the symptoms to look out for.
1. Intoxication – You might experience changes in your mental state and personality.
2. Ataxia – In some cases, you might lose physical coordination as a result of damage to the nervous system or brain.
3. Vertigo – This is the feeling that everything around you is spinning.
4. Chest pain
7. Loss of consciousness
How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Maintain and Service Appliances
You should have your heating systems, boilers and cookers installed and serviced by a qualified and reputable engineer. While you might be tempted to install them yourself, it might be at the cost of your health, or even your life. Ensure the installer is registered with the relevant association or government agency.
Maintenance of Flues and Chimneys
Make sure all chimneys and flues are swept on a regular basis.
Keep Away from Engine Exhaust Fumes
Avoid leaving petrol fueled cars or lawnmowers running in your garage. Have your car checked for exhaust leakages every year. You should make a habit of checking whether your exhaust pipe is blocked before starting your car. This is critical especially during winter when it’s snowing heavily.
Install Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Since carbon monoxide is practically undetectable, you should install a carbon monoxide alarm to detect any leaks. The alarm works with the help of a carbon monoxide sensor which measure the concentration of the gas in the atmosphere. The alarm goes off whenever the carbon monoxide levels exceed a preset level. This is how to detect carbon monoxide. However, you should not consider an alarm as an alternative to regular maintenance of household appliances.
The following tips will help you stay safe at home and in the office.
1. Avoid using a gas range or oven to heat your home.
2. Do not place foil around the burners of your gas stove or use pots that are too big as they increase the amount of carbon monoxide released.
3. Ensure your home or office is well ventilated. Unblock any blocked vents and make sure there’s adequate air circulation whenever you use heaters.
4. It is not recommended to use gas powered tools and equipment in your home. If you have to use them, make sure they are in a well-ventilated room or place the exhaust and engine unit outdoors.
5. Whenever you use products or chemicals that contain methylene chloride, make sure to wear a safety mask.
6. Avoid burning charcoal in an enclosed space.
7. Never sleep in a room with a paraffin heater or an unflued gas fire.
8. Install an extractor fan in the kitchen.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Treatment
Now that you know how to detect carbon monoxide poisoning, let’s find out how to treat it.
Standard Oxygen Therapy
If you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, you might be given oxygen therapy in hospital. Your doctor will prescribe 100% oxygen through a mask. When you breathe in concentrated oxygen, your body is able to replace the carboxyhemoglobin in your red blood cells with oxygen. Therapy will be conducted until the carboxyhemoglobin levels get to less than 10%.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy or simply HBOT helps food the body with pure oxygen. This process helps to overcome the shortage of oxygen in the body caused by carbon monoxide. The long term effectiveness of the HBOT treatment option for treating severe carbon monoxide poisoning is not backed by sufficient data. For this reason, standard oxygen therapy is usually recommended for severe cases.
HBOT is the preferred option in situations where there has been over exposure to carbon monoxide and there’s a possibility of nerve damage. Your doctor will be in a position to decide which treatment option is best for you.