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After inhaling carbon monoxide, get tested at the emergency room

We have all heard the warnings about carbon monoxide, the silent killer. Perhaps you have seen TV shows or movies where carbon monoxide overcomes people, rendering them unconscious. Perhaps those fictional characters even died from breathing the odorless gas.

You may not know you are inhaling carbon monoxide because it has no taste or smell. However, once in your body, its molecules overtake the oxygen in your blood. Little by little, the poison deprives your brain and other organs of oxygen, leaving you at risk for serious injury and ultimately death. If you have recently been exposed to carbon monoxide, you will certainly want a physical examination that includes a blood test.

What does carbon monoxide poisoning look like?

Like most people, you trust that the machinery and appliances you use are well manufactured and installed. Your furnace, grill, oven, water heater, and other items that burn fuel can potentially release carbon monoxide if they are defective or poorly maintained. If you are breathing carbon monoxide, you may experience unusual symptoms, including:

  • Headaches or blurry vision
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and fatigue

With continued or extreme exposure, these symptoms may worsen and you may suffer brain damage or other serious injuries. A blood test performed at the emergency room will indicate how much of your blood has bonded with the carbon monoxide. This bond is carboxyhemoglobin. If you have a high percentage of carboxyhemoglobin, you may be very ill.

Why the blood test is important

Generally, even a low percentage, such as 20 percent, may result in some of the symptoms listed above. When the carboxyhemoglobin level reaches 30 to 40 percent, you may have difficulty breathing as your heart rate increases. Many people lose consciousness when their carboxyhemoglobin levels reach 50 percent or higher. Once the levels reach 60 percent, you are at risk for seizures, you may fall into a coma or you may die.

Knowing the level of carboxyhemoglobin in your blood is crucial for doctors to know how best to treat you. If you experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, time is of the essence. Seeking medical attention should be your first priority.

If you discover that your illness is the result of a defective appliance or another source in your home or workplace, you may be eligible for compensation. In that event, you should seek the advice of an attorney experienced in handling defective product cases.

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