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Breathing is something that we all do, we breathe in and out constantly in our lives, we even do it unconsciously, our nervous system has a place in the medulla oblongata that is exclusively in charge of this vital function, which allows us not to have to keep an eye on it.
Natural logic, when we breathe, implies that when we breathe in air it will have a high concentration of Oxygen, which when it reaches our lungs will be attracted to the hemoglobin contained in the red blood cells, carrying out an exchange where O2 is entered and carbon dioxide (CO2) is expelled.
What has been mentioned above is a process that we see in basic training in our schools, but this process can be affected by gases that end up affecting our health, one of them is Carbon Monoxide (CO), whose poisoning by this gas can even be fatal, keep reading that I am sure that what I am going to explain may interest you.
Breathing is not only the process of inhaling and exhaling air, but what occurs at the cellular level, as I have explained before, that process where the gaseous exchange of CO2 occurs by O2 at the lung level, and in the opposite direction in the rest of the body tissues.
The importance of Oxygen in our body is transcendental, its purpose is to serve as the last electron acceptor in a complex process in which the purpose is the production of energy in the form of a molecule called Adeniosin Triphosphate or ATP.
This energy is what all cells use, each of the enzymes to be able to function either building molecules or disintegrating them. Basically in every process that is carried out at the molecular and cellular level there is consumption of energy in the form of ATP, so it is logical to think that without it there is no possibility of living. Additionally, glucose is used to produce energy, but O2 is essential.
Molecularly speaking, O2 binds at a specific site on hemoglobin, called the receptor, and there is a big problem at this point, and that is that despite the fact that there is a high affinity for the O2 for that receptor, Carbon Monoxide has an equal or greater affinity for that same receptor, so they compete when both are on the same space.
The biggest problem is that carbon monoxide cannot fulfill the function that oxygen fulfills in the production of energy, despite the fact that it can be transferred by hemoglobin just like the former.
And when it happens that the levels of CO are higher than those of O2 we have a very complex health problem, which is expressed with a number of symptoms that can be confused with those of other diseases. . These symptoms are:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Chest pain.
- Being able to even reach fainting and death.
The reasons for these symptoms are basically due to the decrease in the amount of energy that can be produced, since instead of Oxygen it is Carbon Monoxide that is being attached to hemoglobin.
Dizziness, headache, confusion can be explained because the brain consumes a large amount of energy per minute, and in the face of a shortage of O2 energy production decreases and produces this sensation. The same reason is the one that responds as the cause of the weakness.
And obviously, the heart muscle, the myocardium, beats constantly, which also implies an increased consumption of oxygen and energy, and since this is not present, we literally enter into a process of ischemia, which can cause serious cardiac damage by itself. and until death.
It is important above all to know which are the main sources of carbon monoxide production, and indisputably that automobiles are the most basic part of the production of this gas, but they are not the only thing, basically in all spaces where there is combustion, use of gas, fire, there will be production of this gas.
What we must avoid is exposing ourselves to these, especially in closed places. Do not light stoves in places without ventilation, or anything that works with gas, it must always be properly ventilated, to avoid the accumulation of CO.
This was a common cause of death in old houses, which did not have any type of ventilation, and where people went to sleep, lit the fireplace or gas lamps to light their houses, when the electrical energy was not normal, and many woke up dead for such a cause.
It is also the reason why firefighters often use oxygen cylinders when they are on the job fighting fires, because fire consumes oxygen and also increases the concentration of carbon monoxide.
Unfortunately, despite the advancement of science, that it is well known what happens with this, there are people who continue to die for this reason. As I said before, the symptoms that occur are similar to those produced by other diseases. People with cars that have problems in the exhaust pipes and that smoke enters the car, are at high risk of this type of poisoning.
There are even high suicide rates with this type of gas, since it is practically painless, people fall asleep before they even realize what is happening, and until the moment comes when the body stops working completely, starting by major organs such as the heart and brain.
If we suspect someone who could be in this situation, the ideal is to expose them to the open air immediately, away from any closed space and try to take them immediately to a care center.
I hope this publication serves as a good guide to know what happens in our body when we are exposed to carbon monoxide.