A medical protocol for recognizing and treating carbon monoxide poisoning dips into literature for an extended list of symptoms that may be associated with the condition. The article, “Background on Sources, Symptoms, Biomarkers and Treatment of Chronic Carbon Monoxide Poisoning,”  is by Albert Donnay, MHS, Environmental Health Engineering, who is providing the information included in the protocol for the purpose of helping medical professionals in diagnosing and treating chronic carbon monoxide poisoning as defined by specific symptoms and lab tests. The protocol is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for seeing a medical professional.
That being said, the biggest news for me wasn’t that Edgar Allen Poe may have had chronic carbon monoxide poisoning possibly due to the coal gas that was used at the time for indoor lighting or that he may have described the many symptoms of the condition in his macabre story, The Fall of The House of Usher, (1839). The big news for me was that stress – yes stress itself can be a cause of chronic carbon monoxide poisoning.
–> Time for a few stress reducing deep breaths. Carbon monoxide causes blood vessels to constrict and it can take the place of oxygen on the transport molecule of hemoglobin. So every breath you take is less efficient when carbon monoxide is present in excessive amounts. Smoking is a well known contributor of carbon monoxide to the blood stream. Stress adds carbon monoxide indirectly as a breakdown product of increased metabolism while smoking is a direct source of the chemical.
Stress causes an increase in an enzyme that causes more breakdown of hemoglobin to occur. Hemoglobin is the protein that transports oxygen within the red blood cells. The destruction of hemoglobin leaves molecules of carbon monoxide as a side product. So the stress is a double whammy of sorts on our ability to carry oxygen. The stress directly leads to less hemoglobin because more is broken down than usual; and the destruction causes an increase in carbon monoxide which binds onto the area of the remaining molecules of hemoglobin that would normally be carrying oxygen. So there is less total hemoglobin present and more of the remaining hemoglobin is transporting carbon monoxide instead of oxygen.
Chest pain or a rapid heartbeat and difficulty breathing or a feeling of only being able to take shallow breaths can be symptoms of chronic carbon monoxide poisoning, but they can also be symptoms of many other diagnoses, so see a medical professional for individualized diagnosis and treatment. See the protocol for more information about chronic carbon monoxide poisoning and for other symptoms and for the more extensive list of possible symptoms quoted from the fictional work by Edgar Allen Poe. [1, protocol] And see a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment as needed.
- Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.