The Silent Killer: CO Poisoning
First responders to a fire are trained to understand the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and are also trained to recognize potential signs and symptoms. CO poisoning can go unrecognized and untreated, which can lead to long-term health problems.
Know the Facts about CO poisoning:
- CO poisoning can be difficult to detect.
- CO poisoning can present with flu-like symptoms, but it is also possible to be poisoned without having any symptoms at all.
- CO poisoning puts firefighters at significant risk at the scene of a fire.
- Even mild CO poisoning causes mental confusion, which can lead to poor decision making, putting both the exposed firefighter and others on the fire scene at risk.
- Mild CO poisoning can also rob the heart and brain of oxygen – nearly 50% of line of duty firefighter deaths are attributed to heart disease or stroke. That’s why new NFPA 1584 rehab standards support the use of on-scene CO testing.
- CO poisoning significantly increases long-term health risks.
- Just one severe CO poisoning almost doubles the risk of premature death.
- Consistent exposure to CO poisoning may cause long term heart and brain damage.
Do you have firefighters in your life and in your practice? If so, it is critical to test your patients for CO poisoning. It’s a matter of life and death. They risk their lives to save ours. We should be properly diagnosing and treating them for CO poisoning and save their lives right back.
Implementing CO poisoning detection into your practice can help to quickly and inexpensively diagnose CO poisoning enabling you to properly provide triage and rehabilitation to firefighters and other emergency providers.
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Jakubowski G. FireRescue Magazine. 2004; 22(11):52-55.
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NFPA 1584: Standards on the Rehabilitation Process for Members During Emergency Operations and Training Exercises. Annex A section A.22.214.171.124(1).
Hampson NB et al. Crit Care Med. 2009; 37(6): 1941-47.
Bledsoe BE. Journal of Emergency Medical Services. 2007; 32:54-59.