Gas Poisoning – Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Gas Poisoning
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Whether we choose to admit it or not, we inhale carbon monoxide one way or another. When you are walking down the street, on your way to work, when you sit near the fireplace, or even in your kitchen, Carbon monoxide gets into your body system in small quantities.

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It is no newsflash that this colourless and odourless gas is harmful to the human body. However, because you may not have experienced any health issue as a result of the tiny quantities you take in unknowingly on a daily basis, you may think it’s nothing to worry about. There is a cause for real panic when you inhale CO in large quantity because it is gas poisoning.

In previous articles, we talked about an introduction to poisoning, food poisoning, and alcohol poisoning. If you missed any of those, please check them out. In this write-up, we will be paying attention to gas poisoning.

Poisoning refers to substances that are potentially injurious to the human body when inhaled or ingested in one form or another. Such materials can lead to both permanent and temporary damage to a victim. For centuries, poisoning has been in existence and has played a significant role in mortality rates around the world.

What is Gas poisoning?

Gas poisoning, also known as Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning happens when the gas CO a dangerous amount of carbon monoxide is inhaled into the human body.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

CO is a tasteless, colourless, and odourless, yet toxic gas that is a little less dense than air. Carbon monoxide is found in exhaust fumes produced by machines around us. Items like generator sets, charcoal grill, car engines, space heaters, fireplaces, car mufflers, and even some grinding machines release CO into the atmosphere.

Once the carbon monoxide gas is trapped in a place without ventilation, the people in such an area are going to get a gas poisoning and will most likely die if they do not get emergency help.

What are the dangers of gas or CO poisoning?

There have been different reports of people who have lost their lives to gas poisoning from different parts of the world especially during the winter season. Sometime in 2013, two Chinese men were found dead in their hotel room in Nepal.

After their bodies were examined by a health professional, it was discovered that they had died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a malfunctioning gas heater.

In the same month, another report from Colorado in the United States of America claimed that a man had died, and seven others were suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. As at 2009, there was an estimate of around 146 deaths caused by gas poisoning in the USA alone.

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Because CO is colourless and odourless, we do not know that it is in the atmosphere, so we unconsciously breathe it in. Sincerely, it is difficult to breathe in clean air in many busy cities around the world. Places like Lagos city in Nigeria is known for its population density, and the number of traffic people gets stuck in daily as they go to work and return home.

People in such an environment are getting used to the air that they hardly even recall what it fresh air feels like. Children born and brought up in such situations are vulnerable to gas poisoning.

Who is at risk of CO poisoning?

Every human being is at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Unless you live in an environment free of cars, and other engines that emit gas, you can’t escape inhaling carbon monoxide.

Even in villages that are underdeveloped where do not make of most of the machines used in cities, the use of charcoal or firewood grills, sawdust stoves and fire lamps put the inhabitants at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The risk of inhaling a dangerous amount of carbon monoxide increases when you are trapped in a place without ventilation.

In December 2015, a tailor and eight apprentices died on Christmas eve just a few buildings away from my home. Eyewitnesses reported that the tailor has plenty of dresses to finish before Christmas morning and she needed electricity to work.

Because of the epileptic state of the Nigerian power supply, she had to make you of a generator which she allowed to run inside her poorly ventilated shop throughout the night. It was reported that she was afraid that her generator would get stolen and had to take it into her work area, so she could keep an eye on it while she tried to reduce her workload of dresses.

When customers came to get their dresses in the morning, it was noticed that a generator was running inside the shop, but nobody was there to open the doors for business. When the doors were forced open eventually, it was discovered that all nine people had died from inhaling carbon monoxide.

What are the common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

  1. Dizziness
  2. Confusion
  3. Wheezing
  4. Difficulty breathing
  5. Weakness
  6. A dull headache
  7. Vomiting

What happened in the story above is an extreme case of CO poisoning because the victims had inhaled large amounts of carbon monoxide and it had replaced the oxygen in their blood causing them to become unconscious and die.

Diagnosing Carbon monoxide poisoning

When a medical practitioner wants to check for the presence of carbon monoxide in a person’s blood, he or she will collect blood samples to determine the amount of CO in the victim’s blood. Symptoms are going to manifest once the amount of CO levels in a victim’s blood has reached 70 parts per million.

Treatment for gas poisoning

Once a person is diagnosed with gas poisoning, a doctor can treat them in either of two ways

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  1. Oxygen chamber:  This method is used when a victim having a severe case of gas poisoning or a pregnant woman who has gas poisoning would be placed temporarily in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. The pressure of oxygen in a pressurised oxygen chamber is twice the pressure of regular air, so it helps to increase blood level oxygen faster.
  2. Oxygen treatment: This method of treatment requires a victim to breathe in pure oxygen to increase oxygen levels in the blood an eliminate carbon monoxide. A doctor could give a victim an oxygen mask to use, or in cases where the victim cannot breathe on their own, oxygen is provided through a ventilator.

Call for emergency help if you suspect you have gas poisoning. Do not attempt to drive yourself to the hospital as it is hazardous. Get out of poorly ventilated areas and call 911.

Gas Poisoning
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Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.
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