A recent news report chronicled a mass carbon monoxide exposure in a day care in Allentown, Pa. Carbon monoxide is produced from the partial combustion of fossil fuels, usually coal or oil but can also be seen with the use of gas.

Poisoning with carbon monoxide often occurs in the winter months when the home of business heating systems are turned on but the exhaust systems may be damaged or clogged. The exposure to carbon monoxide (which is colorless and odorless gas) can occur slowly or rapidly. When it occurs slowly patients may complain of morning headache which improves after they leave the house. Exposure may be more intense, say when operating a gas motor in a closed space. Often in this second scenario the patient becomes disoriented and may collapse.

I have seen this type of poisoning up close and personal since I have been trained in Hyperbaric Medicine which is one of the aggressive treatments for this type of poisoning. The most recent case I was involved with concerned a young man and his girlfriend who fell asleep in his mobile home and were found the next morning by friends. The boy survived primarily because he was of larger size. The girl died.

Carbon monoxide is taken up by any iron containing molecules in the body the most commonly noted are red blood cells, but muscle and brain also contain significant amounts of iron containing compounds.

Get carbon monoxide detectors for your home and be sure they are working