By Natalie San Luis
Special to the Las Vegas Tribune
As the winter months approach and people spend more time inside,
hospitals might begin to see more and more cases of carbon monoxide
A recent study found that a significant number of people who visited
the emergency room during the winter months with a headache had
elevated levels of carbon monoxide.
The researchers suggested that healthcare professionals keep carbon
monoxide poisoning in mind when treating patients with headaches.
This study was conducted by Dr. Ersin Aksay, from the Department of
Emergency Medicine at the Izmir Tepecik Research and Educational
Hospital in Izmir, Turkey, and colleagues to learn more about carbon
monoxide poisoning during the winter months. Carbon monoxide poisoning
occurs when a person is exposed to carbon monoxide, a gas that cannot
be detected by color, smell or taste.
Things that burn gas or wood, like gas stoves or cars, produce carbon
monoxide. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs more frequently in the
winter when people are more likely to be inside of a confined space
with heaters and stoves on.
Carbon monoxide poisoning may result in a headache, weakness and
dizziness, but symptoms are different for everyone, which can make it
hard to diagnose. Depending on the severity of the poisoning, it can
result in heart damage, brain damage and death.
This recent study looked at people who came to the hospital with a
headache during the winter months (February and March 2011) and how
frequently they were diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning. It also
used a non-invasive test for SpCO, a molecule that is present when
carbon monoxide is inhaled.
During this time period, 482 headache patients visited the emergency
room and were screened with the non-invasive SpCO measurement.
Patients with elevated levels of carbon monoxide according to this
non-invasive measurement underwent a more invasive blood draw. If
their levels of carbon monoxide were still high, they were diagnosed
with carbon monoxide poisoning.
Of the 482 patients, 38 (7.9 percent) had a high carbon monoxide level
on the non-invasive test. A total of 31 participants (6.4 percent) had
elevated carbon monoxide levels on the invasive blood tests and were
diagnosed with carbon monoxide.
Of the 31 participants who were diagnosed, 23 were women. All of the
patients diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning had been using
stoves improperly for heating.
The researchers also found that carbon monoxide poisoning was
diagnosed more frequently during the early hours of the morning after
midnight, before 4 am. and from 7 to 10 am.
The authors of this study concluded that headaches seemed to be a
possible indicator of carbon monoxide poisoning, but screening tools
that looked at levels of carbon monoxide in the blood were essential
for making a diagnosis.
This study was published in Emergency Medicine Journal on October 15.
By Natalie San Luis