Carbon monoxide poisoning--a public health perspective

J A RaubS R Thom


Carbon monoxide (CO) may be the cause of more than one-half of the fatal poisonings reported in many countries; fatal cases also are grossly under-reported or misdiagnosed by medical professionals. Therefore, the precise number of individuals who have suffered from CO intoxication is not known. The health effects associated with exposure to CO range from the more subtle cardiovascular and neurobehavioral effects at low concentrations to unconsciousness and death after acute or chronic exposure to higher concentrations of CO. The morbidity and mortality resulting from the latter exposures are described briefly to complete the picture of CO exposure in present-day society. The symptoms, signs, and prognosis of acute CO poisoning correlate poorly with the level of carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) measured at the time of hospital admission; however, because CO poisoning is a diagnosis frequently overlooked, the importance of measuring COHb in suspicious settings cannot be overstated. The early symptoms (headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, confusion, disorientation, and visual disturbances) also have to be emphasized, especially if they recur with a regular periodicity or in the same environment. Complications occur frequently in CO pois...Continue Reading


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