Your friend staggers up to you and says she is dizzy and nauseous. She holds her head as if in pain, then turns and vomits before mumbling something nonsensical.
Is she drunk? Is she having a seizure?
Even more difficult: another friend says he is having a lot of trouble retaining new information, that he’s tired every moment of every day, and cannot focus on any one thing very well.
M.S.? Lyme Disease? A brain tumour?
You will probably never have to decide these things — at least not without help — but it is interesting to consider how little we know about the actual, real life effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. Most of us know that inhaling vehicle exhaust in an enclosed space can kill us because of carbon monoxide, but how many know what the poisoning looks like, or that there are potential long-term effects?
The first scenario above is what carbon monoxide poisoning looks like in the moment. When a person inhales carbon monoxide (CO), their red blood cells pick it up faster than they do oxygen, reducing the amount of oxygen throughout the body. The results depend on how much has been inhaled — and consequently, how little oxygen is making it into the body’s tissues — but one way or another the body gets damaged, manifesting in weakness, nausea, headaches, confusion, loss of consciousness, and death. If the person is sleeping or otherwise unaware of their surroundings they could die without ever experiencing milder symptoms.
The second scenario above is more akin to the long-term symptoms a person may experience after repeated exposure to carbon monoxide. The body is a wondrous machine, repairing damage and performing maintenance on its own every single day. Sometimes, however, the damage is too extensive or too repetitive, and the problems become chronic. In the case of carbon monoxide poisoning, a person will experience all kinds of problems with thinking and memorization, and generally feel “run down”, lethargic, and in a constant state of fatigue. These symptoms are, as you no doubt noticed, similar to many other conditions, so getting to know the sufferer’s health and lifestyle history are important in narrowing down the possibilities to CO poisoning.
The initial response when someone is exposed to carbon monoxide is to remove them to fresh air without endangering anyone else in the process. Beyond that, however, what are the options? How does one mitigate the damage or long-term consequences with the resulting frustration of bizarre and impairing symptoms? At the Nardella Clinic our naturopathic doctors can help.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a potent treatment for eliminating the short- and long-term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. HBOT administers pure oxygen at pressure greater than what we experience standing at sea level (in this case three times the pressure), saturating the entire body in oxygen by dissolving it in the body’s plasma — the liquid part of blood — which partially bypasses the usual red blood cell transportation, increases absorption, and dislodges carbon monoxide from the body.
As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here is how to make sure you don’t find yourself poisoned by carbon monoxide:
- 1. Avoid inhaling exhaust fumes from cars and other vehicles. Especially ensure that vehicles’ engines are not running in an enclosed area.
- 2. Ensure there are carbon monoxide detectors in high-risk work places and in sleep areas.
- 3. Ensure proper testing and maintenance of heaters, furnaces, and anything else that uses combustion for energy.
- 4. Know the signs of poisoning, be aware of ventilation where you are, and don’t delay seeking a safer environment when the signs come.
With all that out of the way, be mindful of how serious carbon monoxide poisoning can be. If you or anyone you know experiences the symptoms or scenarios described, see a doctor immediately. It could save a life.
Beyond that, the naturopathic doctors at the Nardella clinic have experience treating cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you suspect you are suffering the lingering effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, or maybe have symptoms that do not quite add up, contact us to schedule a naturopathic consultation and start on the road to real health.
It’s important to remember that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is a medical treatment and may not be appropriate for everyone. All potential HBOT patients are carefully screened to ensure maximum safety and effectiveness.