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How HBOT works as carbon monoxide poisoning treatment

Other Medical Conditions and HBOT | Published: June 28th 2021, 11:29AM

Explore the functions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy as a method of continued healing after emergency treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning 


Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency room every year for accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. [1]

Although treatable, it’s essential for those who suspect they have carbon monoxide poisoning to seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid any serious complications. Once emergency care is received, it’s also important to consider additional treatment options such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy that should be utilized to continue healing and prevent any further damage to the body.


What is carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide—a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced by burning gasoline and other fuels—builds up in your bloodstream to a toxic level.

When carbon monoxide is breathed in, it enters your bloodstream and replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide, preventing your blood from carrying oxygen. The lack of oxygen in your body then causes your cells and tissue to fail and perish. 

While many associate carbon monoxide poisoning with suicide, accidental poisonings are more common because carbon monoxide is in fumes produced every time you burn fuel. If items such as gas heaters, generators, fireplaces, cars, or stoves are not properly ventilated, especially in a tightly sealed or enclosed space, carbon monoxide is prone to accumulate to dangerous levels.


What is it like to get carbon monoxide poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are not always apparent, especially if you’re experiencing low-level exposure. The symptoms can feel similar to the flu or food poisoning, but unlike the flu, it does not cause a high fever.

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Tension headache
  • Weakness 
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness. [2]

While everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning, infants, seniors, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to develop the condition.

Although the warning signs can be subtle, carbon monoxide poisoning is a life-threatening medical emergency, so if you or someone you know may be poisoned, get into fresh air and seek emergency medical care immediately.  


Can you recover from carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is highly treatable, but the amount of time it takes to recover depends on the degree and length of exposure.

Prolonged significant carbon monoxide exposure can cause serious complications including permanent brain damage, heart problems, and even death. That’s why it’s essential to seek out immediate carbon dioxide poisoning treatment if you suspect you’ve been exposed.

If you visit the hospital for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, your diagnosis will first be confirmed with a blood test to measure your level of exposure. From there, you will likely receive standard oxygen treatment where you’ll breathe 100% pure oxygen through a tight-fitted mask over your nose and mouth until your toxicity levels decrease to below 10%.

After the emergency care is received, many doctors will recommend that patients continue treatment by spending time in a pressurized oxygen chamber through hyperbaric oxygen therapy, especially in severe cases.


How does hyperbaric oxygen therapy work as carbon monoxide poisoning treatment?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has long been used as an effective form of carbon monoxide poisoning treatment because it speeds up the replacement of carbon monoxide with oxygen in the blood since the air pressure inside the chamber is about two to three times higher than normal. The treatment also helps protect heart and brain tissue which are particularly susceptible to injury from carbon monoxide poisoning. [2]

The effectiveness of HBOT as carbon monoxide poisoning treatment has been proven by multiple studies on the subject. A systematic review of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for carbon monoxide poisoning analyzed three supportive randomized clinical trials and recommended that HBOT should be considered for all cases of acute symptomatic carbon monoxide poisoning. [3]


Want to learn more about HBOT and carbon monoxide poisoning?

Please visit our research library to view studies on the topic under Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

Learn more here.


How we can help

At Hyperbaric Healing Treatment Center, we’ve had great success in treating patients for carbon monoxide poisoning.  

“Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious condition that needs to be treated immediately. In our office, we do not treat emergent patients as they have to receive hospital treatment until cleared stable,” shares Erika Jordan, hyperbaric director and founder of Hyperbaric Healing Treatment Center. “Once patients are discharged, some of them continue to have symptoms that require additional treatments in the outpatient setting—this is when the patient would visit us to continue healing,” she explains.

“Over the years, I have treated many patients with symptoms from carbon monoxide poisoning, especially since the condition is covered by most insurance companies,” Jordan says.


Learn more:

Does insurance cover hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments?


We’d like to share the success stories of a couple of our patients who used HBOT for carbon monoxide poisoning treatment:


Patient 1:

We treated a woman who had a new car through work because her job required a lot of travel. She noticed that after a few hours in the car, she would develop a mild headache, drowsiness, and poor coordination. Over a two week period, her symptoms worsened and she was no longer able to work.  

She soon discovered that her car was in the shop prior to her receiving it and exhaust fumes were slowly leaking into her car over time. 

She was approved by Workers’ Compensation to complete a series of 20 treatments once a day Monday through Friday. When she first arrived at HHTC, she complained of nausea, chest pain, extreme fatigue, brain fog, and headaches. After she completed her treatments with us, all of her symptoms resolved and she was able to return to work.

Patient 2:

We recently treated a woman who was exposed to carbon monoxide through a faulty moving truck that was leaking the poison into the cabin. 

She was diagnosed by her doctor through blood analysis and decided to try hyperbaric oxygen therapy for treatment.

Upon arrival at HHTC, she complained of tightness in her chest, vision concerns, nausea, and headaches. She completed a total of 10 consecutive treatments with us once a day Monday through Friday and her symptoms were resolved.


Want to learn more about hyperbaric oxygen therapy for carbon monoxide poisoning treatment?

Our trained, caring team of hyperbaric specialists are ready to answer any questions you may have! We welcome you to contact us today.


See what our patients have to say about us by joining us on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn!



1: CDC | Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (CO)

2: Mayo Clinic | Carbon monoxide poisoning

3: National Library of Medicine | Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for carbon monoxide poisoning

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