Long-Term Effects of Severe Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Long-Term Effects of Severe Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a completely preventable occurrence with modern technology. If someone else was liable for your poisoning event, you should discuss the matter with a San Antonio carbon monoxide poisoning attorney as soon as possible.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 430 people die each year due to CO poisoning. Not every poisoning event is fatal, as about 50,000 people visit emergency rooms across the United States every year due to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Visiting the ER or another medical facility when you feel the effects of CO poisoning is the best thing to do to protect your health and future. However, getting the treatment you need does not come without cost.

How Carbon Monoxide Exposure Happens

Long-Term Effects of Severe Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

When too much carbon monoxide is in the air, the body replaces the oxygen in the red blood cells with carbon monoxide.

People suffer carbon monoxide poisoning when they are exposed to carbon monoxide and inhale CO fumes, which can happen in different ways.

Anything that burns a gas, coal, oil, or even wood can produce CO fumes, including:

  • Gas fireplaces
  • Gas grilles
  • Boilers
  • Open fires
  • Car exhaust systems
  • Central heating systems
  • Water heaters
  • Pressure washers
  • Generators

When gas appliances do not have proper installation or maintenance, they can release CO fumes into the air. If this happens in enclosed spaces, even at low levels, anyone can inhale fumes and suffer CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide can happen in many different locations, including:

  • Homes
  • Condo and apartment complexes
  • Hotels, motels, and resorts
  • Boats
  • Campers and mobile homes
  • Locations using generators
  • Structures with chimneys and flues

No matter where it happens, the effects of serious poisoning can be long-lasting for many people.

Identifying the Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Many people do not realize they are subject to carbon monoxide exposure for hours or longer. The first signs that you might need medical help include a headache (that feels tension headache), confusion, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and stomach pain.

Many people confuse these symptoms with other common ailments, so they do not realize the severity of what is happening.

As CO poisoning progresses, the symptoms can increase in severity, including:

  • Memory loss
  • Vision problems
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Neurological effects
  • Irritability and emotional changes
  • Feeling intoxicated and mentally impaired
  • Vertigo
  • Increased heart rate
  • Chest pain and heart issues
  • Seizures

These symptoms can develop after hours of exposure to carbon monoxide or after exposure that comes and goes. For example, if there is a CO leak in your apartment building, you can experience symptoms when you are home that seems to abate when you leave the apartment.

The symptoms might gradually increase over time, which can delay the recognition that you need medical treatment. Delaying a diagnosis can increase the chances that you might experience long-term effects of poisoning.

It is better to be safe and seek a medical evaluation if you are feeling any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Then, if you believe that someone else was at fault for the CO leak, contact a San Antonio CO poisoning attorney for advice.

Different Degrees of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

In toxicology, dosage determines the case. In the same way, the severity of carbon monoxide poisoning depends primarily on a person’s exposure to it—the higher the dosage, the worse the poisoning. Different people can experience very different symptoms and effects depending on the extent of their exposure.

People with mild carbon monoxide poisoning may recover fully and escape long-lasting side effects. On the other hand, people with moderate to severe poisoning may never be the same. Although they vary from person to person, certain long-term effects commonly follow even mild carbon monoxide poisoning cases.

Because carbon monoxide poisoning results in hypoxic cell death, it affects the most oxygen-sensitive parts of the body, particularly the basal ganglia in the brain. Many CO poisonings cause permanent brain damage. Some of the identifiable long-term effects include physical, mental, and behavioral changes.

Physical Effects

The physical effects of carbon monoxide can impair your movement, sensation, and bodily functioning.

Some of these include:

  • Brain damage
  • Organ damage
  • Impaired motor function
  • Increased risk of cerebrovascular accident (i.e. stroke, aneurysm)
  • Headaches
  • Basal ganglion damage (impaired locomotor ability)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue upon physical or mental exertion
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Sensitivity to chemicals
  • Ringing in ears
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Problems balancing
  • Reduced driving ability
  • Blurred vision
  • Premature dementia
  • Compromised optical depth perception
  • Trouble focusing eyes
  • A decline in peripheral vision
  • Tremors
  • Parkinsonism
  • Arrhythmias
  • Compartment syndrome
  • Vertigo
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Shortened lifespan

Many of these effects of CO poisoning can make it difficult to live, work, or complete your usual everyday tasks around the house.

Mental and Psychological Effects

In addition to physical manifestations of carbon monoxide poisoning, many people experienced symptoms that involve their mental and psychological functioning:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • A decline in information processing and cognitive ability
  • Compromised short-term memory
  • Decreased language and reading skills
  • Decreased math skills
  • Memory loss
  • Inability to enjoy things once enjoyed
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • PTSD, including phobias relating to the CO poisoning

Such effects can make it difficult to engage in your usual activities or thrive in your job or school program. These effects can be particularly challenging for children suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Behavioral Effects

Perhaps even more difficult to bear are the behavioral effects of CO poisoning. Often, it can be difficult for others to connect these effects to your chemical exposure, which can make everyday life even more difficult.

Some examples of personality changes include:

  • Loss of maturity
  • Unable to maintain employment
  • Loss of personality
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Restlessness and sleep disorders
  • Inability to converse with multiple people at once
  • Decreased social participation
  • Tourette's Syndrome and the propensity to act out (cursing and misbehaving more, for example)

These are often “invisible” effects, which means it is not apparent to the outside world that your behavior stems from an injury or illness. These can affect your personal and professional relationships in devastating ways.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Anyone who suspects they have suffered CO exposure should immediately get into the fresh air. Then, even if you begin feeling better, you should seek a medical evaluation right away. Your doctor can diagnose whether you have levels of carbon monoxide in your bloodstream.

If you do have CO levels, doctors might initially:

  • Treat you with pure oxygen through a mask or ventilator, which pumps oxygen to your tissue and organs and works to replace the CO with oxygen in your blood faster.
  • Prescribe hyperbaric oxygen, which involves spending time in a pressurized oxygen chamber. This therapy helps to quickly replace the level of CO with oxygen, protect you from brain and heart damage when possible, and help to save unborn babies if a pregnant woman suffers poisoning.

Even after such treatments, people who have been poisoned can consistently experience combinations of serious effects in the long term. However, rehabilitation can help.

Therapies can dramatically curtail some long-term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. Physical therapy can improve balance and fine motor coordination, for example.

Cognitive training promotes recall and exercises mental functions. Psychological help aids with depression and anxiety commonly experienced after CO poisoning.

While treatments like these help enormously, they can be very expensive. You need someone on your side to help you manage the associated medical and rehabilitative costs in addition to lifelong health problems.

If you or a loved one is dealing with the long-term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning that was preventable, you could recover compensation. Our carbon monoxide lawyers at the Wyatt Law Firm have years of experience handling carbon monoxide cases, and we know how to secure maximum compensation for our clients.

Fatal Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

There are different ways that carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal. First, if someone does not realize that they are experiencing signs of poisoning and exposure continues, it can lead to death.

Others might suffer permanent brain damage that limits the bodily functioning they need to stay alive. Some victims suffer permanent cardiac damage that later leads to life-threatening cardiac events or complications.

Pregnant women are at particular risk of losing an unborn child due to carbon monoxide exposure. This is because the blood cells of a fetus absorb CO particles more than fully formed cells do. Miscarriage and fetal death are common due to carbon monoxide exposure.

Others who are at particular risk of life-threatening effects include:

  • Small children because it takes less carbon monoxide to become fatal
  • Older adults since CO exposure is more likely to cause permanent and harmful brain damage
  • Individuals with chronic cardiac conditions, heart disease, anemia, or respiratory issues can experience more dramatic effects from exposure
  • People who are sleeping during exposure may never realize they are experiencing the poisonous effects and never wake up

When someone suddenly dies from carbon monoxide exposure, it can leave lasting effects on their families. These might include financial losses, emotional devastation, and more.

Families who experience a tragic loss due to CO poisoning might have the right to recover financially for these losses, just as victims with lasting effects can seek financial recovery.

People and businesses that are responsible for the maintenance of a piece of property must ensure that their premises are safe. This is particularly true when a person or business opens a premises to the general public to do business.

Some of the parties who could potentially be held liable for carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Hotels
  • Landlords
  • Airbnb or VRBO hosts
  • Retail stores
  • Movie theaters
  • Bars and restaurants
  • Generator manufacturers
  • Entertainment venues

In some cases, the fact that carbon monoxide was in the environment may have nothing to do with the party responsible for the premises, but might rather be the result of faulty or malfunctioning carbon monoxide detectors.

When this occurs, anyone who may have suffered injuries could potentially have a claim against the manufacturer or retailer of the faulty detector.

In fact, in some cases, an injured party may have a claim against both the property owner and the manufacturer of carbon monoxide detectors. The best way to determine against whom you may have a claim is to have an experienced attorney review your case as soon as you can.

What Is Your Carbon Monoxide Claim Worth?

If you realize that you have long-term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning and someone else were to blame, you likely want to seek justice and hold that party accountable for your losses. But how much compensation can you seek? How do you even know where to begin when calculating your losses for lasting effects and struggles?

This is one reason why legal help is important when you think you might have a legal claim. When you file an insurance claim, you need to specify how much you are demanding and present evidence to support those demands.

Some damages that victims of carbon monoxide poisoning might have include:

  • Medical expenses - This includes the costs of the initial emergency diagnosis and treatment, initial therapy, and ongoing physical and psychological therapy for your long-term effects.
  • Lost wages - If you were unable to work and lost wages - even what seems like a small amount - the party responsible for your poisoning should cover these wages. If you had to change to a lower-paying job or quit working altogether due to your injuries, you can seek damages for your future lost earnings, as well.
  • Pain and suffering - The long-term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning can cause significant physical and mental pain and suffering. While these losses do not directly correlate with financial bills, you still deserve to financially recover for them.

When you have permanent effects due to someone else’s negligence, you deserve to recover for the permanency of the damage, as well as the short and long-term financial costs.

Because many long-term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are invisible or difficult to communicate or measure, it can be challenging to prove the full extent of your damages.

You need a legal advocate who understands the nature of CO injuries and can prove the full amount you deserve to receive for your losses. Do not wait to seek the legal help you need as soon as your health is in stable condition.

High-Risk Groups for Severe Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Effects

While anyone can be affected by carbon monoxide poisoning, certain groups are at a higher risk for severe effects and complications. These include:

1. Children: Children are more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning because they have a higher metabolic rate and less developed respiratory systems. They also inhale more air relative to their body size compared to adults, which means they can absorb more CO in a shorter amount of time.

2. Older adults: As people age, their ability to tolerate and recover from carbon monoxide exposure decreases. Older adults may also have pre-existing health conditions that can exacerbate the effects of CO poisoning.

3. Pregnant women: Pregnant women need to be especially cautious about carbon monoxide exposure because it can harm both the mother and the developing fetus. CO can cross the placenta and bind to the fetal hemoglobin, reducing the amount of oxygen available to the fetus and increasing the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, or neurological damage.

4. People with pre-existing health conditions: Individuals with certain health conditions are more vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. These conditions include:

  • Cardiovascular disease: CO can exacerbate heart problems and increase the risk of cardiac events.
  • Respiratory disorders: People with asthma, COPD, or other lung diseases may experience more severe symptoms and complications from CO exposure.
  • Anemia: CO competes with oxygen to bind with hemoglobin, and people with anemia already have a reduced ability to carry oxygen in their blood.

5. Smokers: Smokers already have elevated levels of CO in their blood due to inhaling cigarette smoke, which contains CO. This means that they may experience the effects of CO poisoning more quickly and severely than non-smokers.

It's important for individuals in these high-risk groups to take extra precautions to prevent carbon monoxide exposure and to seek medical attention immediately if they suspect they have been poisoned.

This may include installing CO detectors, properly maintaining fuel-burning appliances, and avoiding indoor use of gas-powered equipment. By understanding the increased risks, these groups can take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones from the severe long-term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Do You Need the Help of a San Antonio Carbon Monoxide Lawyer?

You may be wondering whether you need to retain an attorney to represent you after you or a loved one has suffered injuries as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. While there is no requirement that you file a claim with the help of a San Antonio carbon monoxide lawyer, it is certainly in your best interest to do so.

Most personal injury claims - including premises liability claims like those based on carbon monoxide poisoning - conclude when victims reach a settlement agreement with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Insurance companies invariably try to settle cases for as little as they possibly can, and they will not hesitate to take advantage of an unrepresented victim who does not know how the process works.

Some of the ways that insurance companies try to get victims to settle for less include:

  • Starting with an extremely low initial offer to make later offers look better
  • Misinforming victims about the damages they are eligible to recover compensation for
  • Telling victims they have to provide a recorded statement to obtain compensation
  • Asking victims confusing or leading questions to get them to say things that will hurt their cases
  • Pressuring victims to settle their cases before they have had a chance to speak to a carbon monoxide lawyer in San Antonio

A lawyer familiar with representing people who have suffered injuries as a result of carbon monoxide exposure will be able to review your case and get an idea of how much compensation you may be able to receive.

Then, your attorney will likely submit a demand letter detailing your losses and attempt to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company handling your claim.

If the insurance company does not make a fair settlement, your lawyer may file a lawsuit on your behalf to seek damages. When a lawsuit is filed, your case will proceed to trial unless you reach a settlement agreement first.

Speak with a San Antonio Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Lawyer Right Away

paula a wyatt attorney wyatt law firm san antonio
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning  Attorney, Paula A. Wyatt

Carbon monoxide exposure and poisoning can turn your life upside-down and leave you dealing with long-term effects.

Fortunately, the legal team of the Wyatt Law Firm is ready to help clients and families in your position.

We know these claims can be complicated, and we also know how important it is that you receive full compensation for your losses.

Call us today at (210) 340-5550 for a free case review, or submit a confidential contact form via our website.

We work strictly on a contingency fee basis, so you only pay us out of the case’s winnings if we win: you have nothing to lose. We know incidents like these leave families weary and broken-hearted; let us carry what we can. We are here to serve you. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.

You can learn more about carbon monoxide poisoning here on our website and our legal blog. For even more information on this topic, here are some other helpful links:


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