Smoking and Carbon Monoxide

CO2 monitor Carbon monoxide (CO) breath testing is available at Ste. Genevieve County Health Department to determine how much smoke you are inhaling from cigarettes. The CO test is an indicator of your dependence or addiction to nicotine. It shows the amount of carbon monoxide in your lungs and blood.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas produced by burning organic material. Tobacco smoke consists mainly of carbon monoxide, tar, and nicotine. All of these are a risk to your health. Carbon monoxide mainly affects the lungs, heart, and blood vessels. In pregnant women carbon monoxide passes into the blood of the baby and reduces the oxygen supply.

When tobacco smoke is inhaled into the lungs, carbon monoxide passes through the lining of the lung into the blood, where it attaches to red blood cells. These red blood cells normally carry oxygen; however, when carbon monoxide is present it attaches to red blood cells about 200 times greater than oxygen. In other words, the carbon monoxide pushes out oxygen causing extra strain on vital organs like the heart and lungs. The effects of smoking on the body will add up over time.

□ Heart: to compensate for the shortage of oxygen, the heart has to work harder (beat faster) to get enough oxygen to all parts of the body. The heart itself gets less oxygen, increasing the risk of heart damage.

□ Circulation: carbon monoxide causes the blood to thicken and the arteries to get coated with a thick, fatty substance. This causes circulation problems and high blood pressure increasing risk of heart attack and stroke.

□ Breathing: with any increase in physical activity, the reduced supply of oxygen leads to shortness of breath since there is no extra oxygen available for the increased demand. Decreased oxygen availability can also cause tiredness and lack of concentration.

□ Pregnancy and Baby: adequate oxygen necessary for healthy fetal growth is reduced when the pregnant mother smokes. The risk of low birth weight and cleft palate birth defect are increased. After birth the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is higher for babies exposed to smoke.

The good news is when you stop smoking the carbon monoxide level in your blood falls almost immediately. It will return to the same level as a non-smoker within a couple of days. Your blood will carry more oxygen and your body begins healing from much of its damage.

Schedule you carbon monoxide test today. CO breath testing may also be measured in children who are exposed to second hand smoke. The person must be able to hold their breath for 15 seconds and exhale slowly to perform the test properly. For more information, call Ste. Genevieve County Health Department 573 883-7411.