Which physical findings suggest carbon monoxide (CO) toxicity?

Updated: Sep 18, 2018
  • Author: Guy N Shochat, MD; Chief Editor: Gil Z Shlamovitz, MD, FACEP  more...
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Answer

Physical examination is of limited value. Inhalation injury or burns should always alert the clinician to the possibility of CO exposure.

Vital signs may include the following:

  • Tachycardia

  • Hypertension or hypotension

  • Hyperthermia

  • Marked tachypnea (rare; severe intoxication often associated with mild or no tachypnea)

Although so-called cherry-red skin has traditionally been considered a sign of CO poisoning (ie, "When you're cherry red, you're dead"), it is in fact rare. [3] Pallor is present more often


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