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 human sense that can poison or kill someone who breathes too much of it.
But carbon monoxide poisonings are preventable.
In these recent cases of poisoning, Lindell Weaver, MD, Intermountain Healthcare’s medical director of the Hyperbaric Medicine Center at Intermountain Medical Center and LDS Hospital said, “all occurred near the back of the boat, close to exhaust. The children went from normal to serious problems in minutes!”
Dr. Weaver suggests never spending 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.
Here Are Some Other Ways to Prevent Poisonings
- 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
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Loss of consciousness
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. Lindell Weaver, MD, Intermountain Healthcare’s medical director of the Hyperbaric Medicine Center at Intermountain Medical Center and LDS Hospital says it can also reduce the risk of long-term neurocognitive problems which 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.