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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Children


Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a life-threatening condition caused by exposure to high levels of CO. Your child's brain, organs, and tissues can be damaged from a lack of oxygen. CO poisoning can be mild or severe. Severe poisoning can cause permanent injury or death. You will need to watch for new signs and symptoms for several weeks or months after your child's treatment.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.


may be used to give your child liquids. Liquids may increase his or her body fluids and blood pressure.


  • Anticonvulsants may be given to control seizures.
  • Clot busters help break apart blood clots. This may increase blood flow to your child's heart. It is given through an IV and may be given at the same time as other blood thinners. This medicine may decrease the amount of damage to your child's heart. Your child will bleed and bruise more easily after he or she gets clot busters.


  • Blood tests are used to check the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your child's blood. The tests may show how much CO your child was exposed to. The tests may also check his or her overall health and check for other problems that CO poisoning may cause.
  • A neurologic exam may show how well your child's brain works after exposure to CO. Healthcare providers will check his or her pupils, memory, hand grasp, and balance.
  • Telemetry is continuous monitoring of your child's heart rhythm. Sticky pads placed on your child's skin are connected to an EKG machine that records his or her heart rhythm.
  • An EEG may be used to how your child's brain is working. Small pads or metal discs are put on your child's head. Each has a wire that is hooked to a machine. This machine prints a paper tracing of brain wave activity from different parts of your child's brain.
  • X-ray pictures may be used to check your child's lungs and heart. The pictures may show signs of infection, such as pneumonia, or a collapsed lung.
  • CT, MRI, or PET scan pictures may show damage to your child's brain from CO poisoning. Your child may be given contrast liquid to help his or her brain show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not let him or her enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has any metal in or on his or her body.
  • An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound. Sound waves are used to show the structure and function of your child's heart.


  • Extra oxygen may be given if your child's blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Your child may get oxygen through a mask. He or she may also get oxygen through small tubes placed into the nostrils.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is used to get more oxygen into your child's body. The oxygen is given under pressure to help it get into his or her tissues and blood. Your child will be in a room called a hyperbaric chamber during the treatment.
  • An endotracheal tube may be put into your child's mouth or nose. It goes down into your child's windpipe to keep the airway open and help him or her breathe. It may be hooked to a ventilator (breathing machine). Your child may get extra oxygen through the ET tube. He or she will not be able to talk while the ET tube is in place.


Without treatment, your child's signs and symptoms may become life-threatening. He or she may develop heart, lung, or brain problems. Your child's kidneys may stop working. He or she may go into a coma or have a heart attack. You may have a miscarriage or stillbirth if you are exposed to CO while you are pregnant. Even with treatment, your child's signs and symptoms may come back. He or she may have trouble thinking or remembering things, tremors or shaking, depression, or anxiety. Your child may develop a learning disability or other developmental problems.


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Children (Inpatient Care)

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