Approximately 24 children die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning. In 2000, 1,700 children ages 14 and under developed symptoms that required medical attention. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common cause of accidental poisoning-related deaths and is often called "the silent killer."
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous, colorless, tasteless, odorless gas that is produced from the incomplete burning of fuels that contain carbon, such as wood, charcoal, gasoline, coal, natural gas, or kerosene. Breathing carbon monoxide fumes decreases the blood's ability to carry oxygen. Low levels of oxygen can lead to cell death, including cells in the vital organs such as the brain and heart. Persons with existing health problems such as anemia, heart disease, and lung disease are especially vulnerable, as are unborn babies, infants, children, pregnant women, and elderly persons.
The majority of CO exposures occur in the winter months. The most common source of residential CO-related poisoning is unvented or faulty furnaces and heaters. Increased risk occurs anytime these products are operated in enclosed areas with poor ventilation. Other common sources of CO include the following:
The following are the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Some of the most common symptoms may include:
Carbon monoxide poisoning mimics many common illnesses such as the flu and food poisoning. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
Carbon monoxide fumes may cause death, permanent damage to the brain or heart may occur, depending on the length and severity of exposure. See emergency medical care immediately.
If your child or other family members have any symptoms of CO poisoning, stay calm but act quickly.
Further treatment for carbon monoxide exposure will be determined by your child's physician. Emergency medical treatment may include oxygen therapy, blood tests, chest x-ray, and a heart and neurological evaluation.
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Online Resources of Common Childhood Injuries & Poisonings
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