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Boaters with Carbon Monoxide Poisoning sparks warnings from Intermountain Healthcare Clinicians that what you can’t see, can harm you

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Intermountain Healthcare physicians have seen too many carbon monoxide poisonings from boats this summer, all involving young children.

The Center for Disease Control began studying carbon monoxide poisoning related to boats in 2000. Since then, thousands of carbon monoxide poisonings and hundreds of deaths have been reported.

Lethal concentrations of carbon monoxide can accumulate in just seconds.

Carbon monoxide is produced when an engine that uses a carbon-based fuel like gasoline and is left running. It is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is undetectable by the human senses that can poison or kill someone who breathes too much of it, according to Dr. Weaver, who is the medical director of the Hyperbaric Medicine Departments at Intermountain Medical Center and LDS Hospital.

But carbon monoxide poisonings are preventable.

Preventing Poisonings:
In recent cases of poisoning, all of them occurred near the back of the boat, close to exhaust. The children went from normal to serious problems in minute.

Never spend any time near the rear (stern) of a boat while the engine is running. This includes hanging onto the back of the swim platform or being towed close to the boat.

  • Know-how and where CO may accumulate in and around your boat. Carbon monoxide can accumulate in many places under differing conditions.
  • Avoid closed-off, poorly ventilated areas of a boat when its engine is running
  • Watch children closely when they play on rear swim decks or water platforms, which should not be allowed if the engine is running
  • Educate all passengers about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisonings

Know the Symptoms of Poisoning:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death

When carbon monoxide poisoning causes you to pass out and fall into the water, drowning is likely, that’s why it’s so important to educate everyone on the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. They can often be mistaken as just sea-sickness.

If you think a person on your boat has carbon monoxide poisoning, move him or her to fresh air right away and contact the nearest emergency services.

Treatment of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

When done promptly, a blood test can confirm carbon monoxide poisoning. The best treatment is high-flow oxygen, sometimes in a special room or capsule called a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which delivers 100% oxygen to the body, not only getting rid of the toxic carbon monoxide in your system, but also reducing inflammation in the brain caused by carbon monoxide.

Dr. Weaver says it can also reduce the risk of long-term neurocognitive problems that occur unpredictably.

Although treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning reduces the risk of possible permanent brain or cardiac injury, disability can still occur. Therefore, thinking about carbon monoxide and how to prevent and avoid it is the best way to avoid it.

For More information visit the Intermountain Healthcare website. If you or a family member is experiencing a medical emergency, dial 9-1-1.

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