Carbon dioxide (CO2) normally comprises about 385 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere. The partial pressure of CO2 in the blood is normally about 40mm of mercury (mmHg). A high carbon dioxide level (hypercapnia) is generally defined as a CO2 pressure of 45 mmHg and 75 mmHg is considered to be severe hypercapnia. Mild cases of hypercapnia do not typically require specific treatment other than breathing normally carbonated air, but severe hypercapnia may require prompt medical attention.
Identify the symptoms of hypercapnia. Early symptoms include a rapid pulse, flushed skin, muscle twitches and sometimes an increase in blood pressure. More severe hypercapnia can cause heart arrhythmias, rapid breathing and disorientation.
Provide first aid for hypercapnia. Remove the victim immediately from the source of CO2 without endangering yourself. Most victims of hypercapnia who are still conscious should recover without any special treatment.
Call for medical attention and perform CPR if a victim of hypercapnia is unconscious. Perform heart massage at a rate of once per second and artificial respiration at a rate of three times per second until medical help arrives.
Administer oxygen. The primary medical treatment for hypercapnia is providing oxygen through a mask. This gas has a higher concentration of oxygen than the atmosphere and can reduce the time required for the victim to become fully oxygenated.
Treat the complications of severe carbon dioxide poisoning. Complications such as acidosis, cardiac arrhythmia and pulmonary edema have specific treatments. You can treat seizures due to carbon dioxide with dantrolene or diazepam along with respiratory support. Extensive supportive treatment followup may be required for patients with neurological damage. The prognosis for these patients is highly variable and therefore difficult to predict.
Severe carbon dioxide poisoning requires prompt medical attention. It can lead to convulsions, unconsciousness and even death without medical treatment.