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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. Silver Cross EMS System EMD January 2011 CE Emergency Medical Dispatcher. Learning Objectives. Define carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon monoxide poisoning. Identify signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

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carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Silver Cross EMS System

EMD January 2011 CE

Emergency Medical Dispatcher

learning objectives
Learning Objectives
  • Define carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Identify signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Describe the role of EMD in carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Identify sources of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is and has been the most common cause of accidental toxic poisoning and death in the United States for the last 100 years.

carbon monoxide is
Carbon Monoxide is:
  • Colorless
  • Odorless
  • Tasteless gas
scope of the problem
Scope of the Problem
  • CO Poisoning creates approximately 40,000 visits to hospital ED’s each year.
  • All people and animals are at risk.
  • Certain groups are more susceptible:

- unborn babies, infants, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems.

scope of the problem cont
Scope of the Problem (cont.)
  • Each year more than 500 Americans die from CO poisoning.
  • More than 2000 commit suicide by intentionally poisoning themselves.
sources of carbon monoxide co
Sources of Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by:

  • Cars and trucks
  • Small gasoline engines
  • Stoves and lanterns
  • Burning charcoal and wood
  • Gas ranges and heating systems.
new homes
New Homes

Most new homes are more air tight than older homes, which cuts down the fresh air supply to a furnace. This results in an oxygen-starved flame that forms carbon monoxide gas.

tobacco use
Tobacco Use

Tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke, is a large source of CO in homes with smokers. Smokers have higher carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) values than nonsmokers. Smokers generally have COHb values of 5 to 6 percent. Nonsmokers have COHb levels of .5 percent, whereas nonsmokers exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke have been shown to have COHb levels in the 2 to 3 percent range.

winter season co causes
Winter Season CO causes:
  • Gas and oil heaters are not cleaned or serviced.
  • Blocked or poorly maintained chimneys
  • Old or worn chimney flue liner.
  • Birds nest can block the chimney.
  • Wrong sized flue installed
  • Warming up cars or trucks in a garage
co detectors

CO detectors

Home detectors are designed to sound before residents show signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Normally, hemoglobin binds with oxygen.
  • When carbon monoxide (CO) is present, the CO will bind to the hemoglobin in red blood cells 200 times more strongly than oxygen.
  • This combination of hemoglobin and CO produces carboxyhemoglobin (COHb).
  • This decreases the amount of oxygen carried by the hemoglobin, causing oxygen deprivation.
initial symptoms
Initial Symptoms

The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). The most common symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea and/or Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Chest Pain
  • Pink or Red skin tone (late sign)
long term exposure symptoms
Long-term Exposure Symptoms


  • Long-term nervous system damage


  • Hypotension (Low blood Pressure)
  • Dysrhythmias (Irregular Heart Rhythms)
  • Clotting disorders


  • Hypoxia (Low Oxygen Levels)
  • Shortness of breath
dangerous co levels
Dangerous CO Levels
  • Health effects depend on level of CO, patient’s health, and length of exposure.
  • The concentration of CO is measured in parts per million (ppm).
  • 1 to 70 ppm generally will not have any noticeable effect.
  • Above 70 ppm symptoms become more apparent.
  • Above 150 to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness, and death are possible.
  • If the source is known, have victims removed from the area, if it is safe to do so.
  • Advise callers to move themselves and other victims to fresh air or well ventilated area.
  • For complaints related to the exposure, proceed to the proper protocol in your EMDPRS.
  • Victims will benefit from oxygen administration and severe cases may need hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
  • Hyperbaric chamber – airtight chamber containing an oxygen atmosphere under high pressure to force oxygen into tissues and displace carbon dioxide.
for more information
For more information

Center for Disease Control’s Carbon Monoxide fact sheet.

List of hyperbaric facilities in Illinois and further information on treatments.


Will/Grundy EMS System CME, 1st Trimester 2008

AAOS Emergency Medical Responder, 5th Edition

Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 4th Edition

Principles of Emergency Medical Dispatch, 4th Edition