Facts as known
After a long night of studying, at 6.45 a.m. on Sunday, Dhruvi went in for her bath. It was around 8 a.m. that her parents got alarmed, given that she was taking an inordinately long time to finish her bath.
In this report, her uncle Yagnesh Parmar says, “She wanted to wash her hair, which usually takes longer. Her parents heard some noise from the bathroom but were not alarmed. It was only at 8 am when she did not come out that they started knocking on the door.”
When the door to the bathroom was broken, they found the class 10 student unconscious, with one side of her body burnt from the hot water.
In the same report, Dr Vivek Chaurasia, who attended to her when she was brought to the hospital, said, “We immediately put her on a ventilator when she started gasping for breath. She was in the bathroom for 75 minutes, and that had affected her brain. By the second day, her brain swelling increased, and she suffered multiple convulsions.”
Despite the medical intervention, she succumbed to the injuries. The inhalation of carbon monoxide (CO) was one of the reasons leading to her death.
According to this case report, it is difficult to estimate the incidence of CO poisoning because the symptoms resemble many other common ailments. This is more so in India, where there is improper reporting of morbidity and mortality.
What are gas geysers?
The function of a gas geyser is to heat water, just like an electric geyser. A gas geyser heats water, making use of a gas burner located below a tank from where the heated water is delivered through pipelines. During heating, pressure accumulates in the gas geyser, and the pressure valve intervenes to discharge it.
Unlike electric geysers that use electricity, gas geysers use Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG); they provide immediate heating as well as a continuous flow of heated water, which is one of the reasons why they are preferred over electric geysers, especially in large families.
Dr Jaba Chauhan, MD (General Medicine), who practices in Chennai, shares some precautions. She says, “Always have an open window/exhaust fan on so that there is a circulation of air. This is essential because the gas needs oxygen to keep burning and cutting off the oxygen supply can be fatal, as was the unfortunate case with Dhruvi.”
She goes on to say that even in winter, when the temperature might not be conducive to keep a window open, one must keep it open while the gas geyser is being used.
Things to know about gas geysers
1. The partial combustion that takes place in a gas geyser emits carbon monoxide, which is colourless and odourless. This is a hazard because even in case of a leak, one would not come to know of it.
2. It only takes a few minutes after inhaling carbon monoxide that a person can start feeling dizzy and even lose consciousness.
3. When a gas geyser is installed in a closed place like the bathroom, the chances of such incidents are higher. However, these gas geysers have a larger area and adequate ventilation in kitchens.
4. If one still wants to install a gas geyser, it could be done outside the bathroom in a space that has adequate ventilation.
5. In case the gas geyser has to be installed inside the bathroom, switch it off before entering.
How to give first aid in case of CO poisoning?
1. First and foremost, get the person away from the site of the poisoning. Preferably, to a well-ventilated area. Do check if the person has sustained any injuries before you move them.
2. If the source of the leak is identifiable, turn it off without causing any harm to yourself.
3. Call a doctor or take the person to the emergency room immediately. Do not waste time trying any home remedies. There is no home remedy to tackle CO poisoning.
4. Do not attempt any mouth-to-mouth breathing even if the person appears to be unconscious. This could be counterproductive and may prove to be dangerous.
While we have taken utmost care in putting this article together, be sure to read up more and follow your medical practitioner’s advice in case of a mishap.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)