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Identify and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

April 22, 2015
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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Carbon monoxide (CO), called the “invisible killer,” is especially dangerous for the elderly, according to a study published in the Annals of Long-Term Care. Researchers note that “CO toxicity is associated with acute myocardial injury, which may lead to chest pain, myocardial infarction, arrhythmias or congestive heart failure, and in cases of chronic exposure, neurologic damage is possible.”

To minimize the risk and address the possibility of CO poisoning, Ijeoma M. Muo, MD, MPH, and Steven R. Gambert, MD, MACP, AGSF, have prepared a tip sheet designed to assist in prevention, proper diagnosis and treatment.

According to the tip sheet, CO poisoning can mimic other diseases, such as myocardial infarction and changes in cognition. Older persons with chronic heart disease or respiratory issues are at high risk for fatal CO poisoning.

Other high-risk individuals include those who live alone or in older homes who might not have the financial resources to complete necessary repairs.

Although long-term care (LTC) facilities strive to monitor the presence of CO, older buildings should be inspected and corrected if the gas is detected. It is also recommended CO poisoning be added to checklists when admitting new residents to an LTC facility.

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