Interpreting Carbon Monoxide Levels: Signs to Expect in Clients with Smoke Inhalation Injuries

When caring for a client who has endured a smoke inhalation injury, assessing carbon monoxide levels is a crucial aspect of their medical evaluation. The concentration of carbon monoxide (CO) in the blood can provide valuable insights into the severity of the injury and guide appropriate interventions. In this article, we will explore the implications of a carbon monoxide level of 35% and the signs that Nurse Cirie should expect in the affected client.

Understanding Smoke Inhalation Injuries

Smoke inhalation injuries occur when individuals are exposed to the toxic byproducts of combustion, typically during fires. These injuries can have significant health consequences, as they often involve the inhalation of various harmful substances, including carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and other toxic gases.

The Role of Carbon Monoxide in Smoke Inhalation Injuries

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced during incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels. When inhaled, it binds to hemoglobin in the blood, reducing its ability to carry oxygen to body tissues. This results in tissue hypoxia, which can affect various organ systems, particularly the brain and the heart.

Interpreting a Carbon Monoxide Level of 35%

A carbon monoxide level of 35% indicates a significant exposure to the gas, and the client is at risk of experiencing a range of symptoms and signs associated with carbon monoxide poisoning. The signs that Nurse Cirie should expect in the client with this level of exposure include:

  1. Headache:
    • Carbon monoxide poisoning often presents with headaches, which can range from mild to severe.
  2. Dizziness and Confusion:
    • Clients may experience dizziness, confusion, disorientation, and difficulty concentrating due to the reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
  3. Nausea and Vomiting:
    • Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, contributing to overall discomfort and dehydration.
  4. Shortness of Breath:
    • Clients may have difficulty breathing and experience shortness of breath due to reduced oxygen delivery to the lungs.
  5. Chest Pain:
    • Chest pain can occur as a result of the strain on the heart caused by decreased oxygen availability.
  6. Weakness and Fatigue:
    • Clients may feel weak, fatigued, and lethargic due to inadequate oxygen supply to muscles and tissues.
  7. Visual Disturbances:
    • Some individuals may report visual disturbances, such as blurred vision or difficulty focusing.
  8. Cyanosis:
    • In severe cases, clients may develop cyanosis, a bluish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes, indicating a significant lack of oxygen in the blood.
  9. Loss of Consciousness:
    • In extreme cases, carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to loss of consciousness, seizures, and coma.

Prompt Intervention and Treatment

Recognizing the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning is critical, and Nurse Cirie should promptly initiate appropriate interventions, including:

  • Administering High-Flow Oxygen: Providing high-flow oxygen therapy helps to displace carbon monoxide from hemoglobin and improve oxygen delivery to tissues.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Close monitoring of the client’s vital signs, including oxygen saturation levels and neurological status, is essential.
  • Consulting with a Physician: Clients with significant carbon monoxide poisoning may require evaluation by a physician, who may recommend hyperbaric oxygen therapy in severe cases.
  • Ensuring Adequate Ventilation: If the source of carbon monoxide exposure has not been eliminated, ensuring a safe environment and adequate ventilation is crucial.


A carbon monoxide level of 35% in a client with a smoke inhalation injury indicates a significant exposure to the gas, and Nurse Cirie should expect a range of symptoms and signs associated with carbon monoxide poisoning. Timely recognition and appropriate intervention are vital to mitigate the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, improve oxygenation, and support the overall recovery of the affected client.


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