Summary checklist

• Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning commonly occurs during exposure to products of incomplete combustion resulting from fires and faulty gas furnaces.

• Carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) is relatively stable and does not carry oxygen; hence CO poisoning causes tissue hypoxia, and CO can enter the body tissues and bind to cellular hemoproteins.

• The correlation between COHb and clinical severity of poisoning is poor.

• Neurological and cardiac symptoms are common during CO poisoning, and 3 to 30 per cent of poisoning victims develop a delayed neurological syndrome.

• Oxygen is the treatment of choice for mild poisoning, and in more severe cases hyperbaric oxygen is useful to decrease the body store of CO and prevent the delayed neurological syndrome.

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