We don't pay much attention to the smoke rising off the grill, the exhaust trailing the family car, or the invisible backdraft flowing from the fireplace, but something lethal lurks in the fumes.
Emitted during combustion, carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly compound that causes the most poisoning cases in the U.S. every year. Even worse, it is a common gas that you cannot see, smell, or taste.
Burning carbon-based fuel sources such as oil, wood, charcoal, and natural gas creates CO as a byproduct. Although you may be able to see, smell, and taste other byproducts of burning, you cannot tell when dangerous concentrations of CO are present without a measuring instrument.
When inhaled, CO attaches to hemoglobin in the blood, depriving the body of oxygen and simultaneously poisoning cells. Once enough CO collects in the blood, the body starts to shut down. Acute poisonings can bring dramatic symptoms rapidly - sometimes in seconds or minutes. On the other hand, long-term CO exposure causes gradual health deterioration through chronic poisoning.
Both acute and chronic CO exposures lead to a range of symptoms:
- Headaches (dull, especially at the front and sides of the head)
- Compromised balance
- Blurred vision
- Flu-like symptoms
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle fatigue and weakness
- Loss of coordination
- Depression and anxiety
- Chest pain and angina
- Loss of consciousness
Common CO Poisoning Misdiagnoses
Oxygen treatments can significantly reduce the damage caused by CO poisoning, but they must be administered as soon as possible after the exposure. Unfortunately, oxygen treatment is often delayed or forgone due to misdiagnoses by medical personnel.
Common misdiagnoses for CO poisoning's vague symptoms include:
- Food poisoning
- Migraine or tension headache
- Viral infection
- Depression or anxiety
- Hyperventilation syndrome
- Heart disease, angina, or cardiac arrhythmias
- Drug or alcohol intoxication
- Traumatic brain injury or cerebral hemorrhaging
By far, the flu is the number one misdiagnosis for CO poisoning. However, carbon monoxide poisoning victims who experience flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting do not experience fevers. Pay attention to flu-like symptoms, especially if multiple people (or even pets) around you experience them at the same time.
If you suspect you have CO poisoning, mind your location. Feeling chronically ill or exhausted at one particular place could indicate an external source to your symptoms.
If you suspect you have carbon monoxide poisoning, seek medical evaluation immediately. If a medical professional gives you an unfitting diagnosis, request a blood test for your carboxyhemoglobin. Your carboxyhemoglobin represents the percentage of carbon monoxide metabolized by your body.
After you receive medical treatment, know that you may have legal recourse and seek a case review. Call Wyatt Law Firm at 210-255-2231 if you or a loved one has been affected by carbon monoxide poisoning. You could be entitled to compensation. Contact us today for a free case review, or submit a confidential contact form via our website.
Our personal injury and carbon monoxide attorneys have years of experience litigating complex cases. Our clients know us by our case wins, and we know them by their stories.
Let us tell your story. Let us fight for you.
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Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). (2018, May 17). Carbon monoxide poisoning. Retrieved July 2, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/carbon-monoxide/symptoms-causes/syc-20370642
Mitchell, G. (2017, March). Carbon monoxide poisoning (A. Oakley & M. McGivern, Eds.). Retrieved July 2, 2019, from https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/carbon-monoxide-poisoning
Penney, D. G. (2008). A Challenge to the Healthcare Community: The Diagnosis of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. In Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (pp. 437-448). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.