Some facts on carbon monoxide and its possible health effects

WINNIPEG — Here are some facts about carbon monoxide after 46 people were taken to hospital Tuesday for a suspected leak of the gas at a hotel in Winnipeg:

What is it?

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Carbon monoxide is a gas that is also known as CO. It causes illness and can lead to death. It has no smell, taste or colour and is made whenever fuels like oil, coal, wood, gasoline, propane or natural gas are burned.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Breathing it in reduces a person's ability to carry oxygen in the blood. At low levels, its effects include flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, headache, shortness of breath and impaired motor functions like muscle weakness, or partial or total loss of the function of a limb or limbs.

At high levels or if someone is exposed to the gas at low levels for long periods of time, it can cause dizziness, chest pain, poor vision and difficulty thinking.

The government of Canada says at very high levels, it can cause convulsions, coma and death.

How is carbon monoxide poisoning treated?

HealthLinkBC says the best treatment is oxygen therapy. Breathing pure oxygen can bring its level in the blood back to normal.

The most common form of this therapy involves breathing in oxygen through a mask.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can also be used, and in this treatment a patient lies inside a chamber that delivers oxygen under high pressure, which quickly reduces carbon monoxide levels in the blood.

HealthLinkBC says with quick treatment, most people recover within a few days. But long-term problems can appear and patients should tell their doctor about any changes in vision, co-ordination, or behaviour in the weeks after treatment.

(Source: The Canadian and British Columbia government websites)

© Virden Empire-Advance

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