Protecting at risk groups from CO exposure

Children and Infants

Infants and young children are more susceptible to the effects of carbon monoxide because their bodies and organs are still developing, and they have a higher metabolic rate. They may also be less able to communicate symptoms.

Faster Metabolism

Children generally have a faster metabolism than adults, meaning they breathe more rapidly and absorb gases more quickly. This increased metabolic rate can lead to a faster uptake of carbon monoxide into the bloodstream, making them more susceptible to the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Higher Respiratory Rate

Children breathe at a faster rate than adults. This higher respiratory rate allows them to take in more air per unit of body weight. If the air contains carbon monoxide, children can inhale larger amounts of the gas in a shorter period, increasing the potential for toxicity.

Smaller Body Size

Due to their smaller body size, children have a smaller blood volume. This means that a given amount of carbon monoxide can cause a higher concentration in their blood compared to adults, leading to a more significant impact on oxygen transport.

Developing Central Nervous System

Children's central nervous systems, including the brain, are still developing. Carbon monoxide can interfere with the delivery of oxygen to developing organs and tissues, potentially causing long-term neurological damage in children.

Higher Oxygen Demand

Children have a higher oxygen demand relative to their body size. The binding of carbon monoxide to haemoglobin reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. In children, who already have a higher oxygen demand, this reduction can have more severe consequences.

Limited Ability to Recognise Symptoms

Children may not recognise or be able to communicate the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as headaches, dizziness, or nausea. This can delay the identification of exposure and timely medical intervention.

Longer Exposure Periods

In some situations, children may spend more time in enclosed spaces with potential sources of carbon monoxide, such as homes or cars. Longer exposure periods increase the risk of carbon monoxide accumulation and poisoning.

Increased Susceptibility to Hypoxia

Children may be more susceptible to hypoxia, where the body is deprived of adequate oxygen. Carbon monoxide interferes with oxygen transport in the blood, exacerbating the risk of hypoxia in children.

Protecting Children and Infants from CO

There are several ways that children and infants can be protected from exposure to carbon monoxide.

Installing Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Install carbon monoxide detectors in homes, especially in sleeping areas. Ensure that the detectors meet safety standards and have working batteries. They must also be tested regularly.

Regular Appliance Maintenance

All fuel-burning appliances, including heating systems and stoves, should be maintained regularly. It's also important to ensure that these systems are properly vented to prevent carbon monoxide leaks.

Educate and Inform Children

Teach children about the dangers of carbon monoxide and the importance of notifying adults if they experience symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, or nausea.

Ventilation Awareness

Ensure there is proper ventilation in living spaces. Open windows periodically to allow fresh air circulation, especially when using fuel-burning appliances.

Supervision in Vehicles

Never leave a child alone in a running vehicle, even if parked in an open space. Cars can accumulate carbon monoxide, posing a risk to occupants.

Medical Attention

Seek immediate medical attention if carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected. Children may not communicate symptoms clearly, so any signs of exposure should be taken seriously.

By understanding the unique vulnerabilities of children to carbon monoxide poisoning, and taking appropriate preventive measures, children and infants can be better protected against exposure to carbon monoxide.