Assessing carbon monoxide poisoning
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Assessing carbon monoxide poisoning

Tricia Scott Senior lecturer, Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care, University of Hertfordshire
Theresa Foster Research manager, East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, Cambourne, Cambridgeshire

Tricia Scott and Theresa Foster explain how emergency care practitioners can test whether patients have been exposed to this common but highly toxic gas

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas usually formed during the incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels. Poisoning by CO can be fatal or lead to long-term debilitating cardiovascular, respiratory and neuropsychological conditions. Despite the reinforcement of government policies on CO poisoning over the past decade, emergency practitioners should become more aware of CO toxicity to reduce mortality and morbidity, and an unnecessary financial burden on health services. This article alerts emergency nurses to the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning and discusses the use of non-invasive CO-monitoring devices to confirm levels of CO in patients’ blood and exhaled air. It also considers the case for early CO monitoring in emergency care settings.

Emergency Nurse. 20, 10, 14-19. doi: 10.7748/en2013.


Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 29 January 2013

Accepted: 18 February 2013

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