Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Children

  • More than 200 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, and thousands of others develop symptoms that require emergency medical attention. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common cause of accidental poisoning-related deaths and is often called "the silent killer." Unborn babies, infants, children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning.

    What causes carbon monoxide poisoning?

    Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous, colorless, tasteless, odorless gas that is produced from the incomplete burning of fuels that contain carbon, such as wood, charcoal, gasoline, coal, natural gas or kerosene. Breathing carbon monoxide fumes decreases the blood's ability to carry oxygen. Low levels of oxygen can lead to cell death, including cells in the vital organs such as the brain and heart.

    How Boston Children's Hospital approaches carbon monoxide poisoning

    The Pediatric Environmental Health Center at Children's offers multidisciplinary evaluation and management of children with known or suspected exposure to environmental toxins, including carbon monoxide. Our team provides the comprehensive, coordinated services if your child has been exposed to carbon monoxide. Services provided include:

    • patient evaluation: complete history and physical exam
    • laboratory testing
    • treatment provided by experienced pediatric environmental medicine toxicologists
    • prevention: Guidance and practical advice for reducing and eliminating exposures
    • telephone and/or written consultations to treating primary care providers
    • 24 hour telephone access: 1-888-Child14

    For more information, see our Pediatric Environmental Health Center site.

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