Woman accidentally inhales toxic gas, hospitalised

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Doctors term it ‘gas geyser syndrome’ that leads to hypoxia, seizures and unconsciousness

Pune: A 66-year-old woman accidentally inhaled poisonous carbon monoxide emanating from the gas geyser in the poorly-ventilated bathroom. The geyser uses LPG and burns to generate heat, people consume carbon monoxide that forms in excess, leading to hypoxia, seizures and unconsciousness. The woman later recovered in a city-based hospital.

The husband of the patient knocked on the door of the bathroom as the woman was taking longer than usual. However, there was no response. When he broke open the door, he found that his wife was lying unconscious on the ground.

Later the doctors noted that the woman has suffered from commonly known as ‘gas geyser syndrome’. In this syndrome, a person inhales consume carbon monoxide that forms in excess, leading to hypoxia, seizures and unconsciousness.

Dr Bhushan Joshi, a Consultant, Neurologist at Columbia Asia Hospital, Pune, where the patient was treated, said that the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)-fueled water heaters are convenient but using them for a prolonged duration may prove fatal in poorly-ventilated bathrooms, a fact that not many users are aware of.

“These gas geysers emit various toxic gases – one among them is carbon monoxide (CO) that is colourless and odourless, making it difficult to identify. Loss of consciousness due to inhalation of carbon monoxide is common while other incidents it may cause include epileptic seizures, dizziness, and blackouts. The most important aspect of treatment is to retrieve the affected person from that environment as soon as possible to minimise exposure to CO and bring to a well-equipped hospital for treatment,” said Dr Joshi.

He further added that the husband of the patient acted promptly and contacted the hospital who immediately sent an ambulance to bring her to the hospital.
“Once in the hospital, tests were done to eliminate other possibilities and diagnose gas geyser as the reason for her loss of consciousness,” said Dr Joshi.

Dr Joshi further said that the winter season particularly sees a rise in people suffering from the side effects of a gas geyser.
“The geyser uses the LPG and burns to generate heat, people consume carbon monoxide that forms in excess, leading to hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and seizures and unconsciousness. Gas geysers are increasingly causing symptoms of nausea, headache, vomiting, fits and affect the young population as well, mostly because people are not aware of the ill-effects and do not follow the safety measures. Timely treatment is key to address the problems caused by gas geysers. According to some studies, gas geysers may also cause neurological disorders on prolonged use,” said Joshi.

He further added that incomplete combustion of LPG due to inadequate ventilation leads to accumulation of mainly carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide, and may cause coma or seizures in people with prolonged exposure.

Dos and don’ts of using a gas geyser

  • Read the manual carefully before using the heater and adhere to safety measures listed.
  • Do not use a flueless gas geyser for more than five minutes continuously.
  • Put off the heater before entering a bathroom and ensure the bathroom has good ventilation.
  • Clinical features of acute carbon monoxide poisoning include a headache, dizziness and confusion.

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