Lightning Learning: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Lightning Learning: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

“Carbon monoxide can’t be seen, can’t be smelled and can’t be heard. But it CAN be stopped.”
— advice is based on local guidelines & procedures


Carbon monoxide is produced when there is an inadequate supply of oxygen or inadequate removal of waste combustion products. CO impairs oxygen delivery to tissues by forming carboxyhaemoglobin with oxygen and haemoglobin.

  • Mild? Non-specific symptoms – headache, myalgia, dizziness, neuropsychological impairment.

  • Severe? Confusion, loss consciousness, death.

  • Long-term? Majority fully recover, others develop neuropsychiatric features.


Refer all exposed patients to ED.

Manage ABCDE, treat complications.

Measure CO levels using a breath detector.

Perform a neurological exam, ECG, and a VBG.

Treat Give O2 until carboxyhaemoglobin level normalises (<3% in non-smokers; <10% in smokers).

Its ½ life is 320 minutes in air and 80 minutes in 100% oxygen.

Advice see TOXBASE + call UK NPIS.

Suspect especially if household members are experiencing same symptoms… and if symptoms resolve when away from source but return on re-exposure!


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