Treatments and Therapeutics

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition caused by the inhalation of carbon monoxide gas.

It is produced by the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels such as wood, gasoline, and natural gas.

Carbon monoxide binds to haemoglobin in the bloodstream, reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood and leading to tissue hypoxia (oxygen deprivation).

This prevents our organs from getting the oxygen they need.

Carboxyhaemoglobin (COHb) is formed by the binding of carbon monoxide to haemoglobin. The formation of COHb reduces the number of blood cells available to transport oxygen.

Immediate treatment is essential to prevent severe complications or fatalities.

If you suspect you might have CO poisoning, please visit the NHS website immediately - Here.

Treatment for CO exposure

Treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning typically involves several key steps.

Immediate Removal from the Source

The first and most crucial step in treating carbon monoxide poisoning is to remove the affected individual from the source of exposure, whether it's a car, a faulty heating system, or any other potential source of carbon monoxide.

If carbon monoxide exposure is suspected, immediately open doors and windows and leave the vicinity.

It's important to remember that carbon monoxide has no smell or taste.

We breathe in carbon monoxide like normal air with no irritation to our noses or throats. Unlike natural gas or LP gas, which have a characteristic odour added to them to alert you, carbon monoxide has no fumes and no colour.

Carbon monoxide poisoning may not always be the obvious cause of illness.

Administer Oxygen

High-flow oxygen therapy is the cornerstone of carbon monoxide poisoning treatment. It helps to rapidly eliminate carbon monoxide from the bloodstream by increasing the concentration gradient for carbon monoxide binding to haemoglobin.

Monitoring and Supportive Care

Patients with carbon monoxide poisoning should be closely monitored for cardiac and neurological complications.

Supportive care may include intravenous fluids, medications to control symptoms like headache or nausea, and treatment for any associated injuries or conditions.

Treatment Issues and Challenges

There are several issues and challenges in treating carbon monoxide poisoning, these include the following.


One of the primary challenges is accurately diagnosing carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms can be nonspecific and mimic other illnesses, which may lead to delayed treatment.

Delayed Presentation

Patients may not seek medical attention immediately after exposure, which can result in more severe poisoning by the time they receive treatment.

Neurological Effects

Delayed or inadequate treatment can lead to long-term neurological complications, including cognitive deficits and movement disorders.

Variability in Symptoms

Carbon monoxide poisoning can present with a wide range of symptoms, making diagnosis more difficult. Some individuals may be asymptomatic, while others may experience severe symptoms.