Cyanide is a deadly chemical that acts quickly. Irrespective of its odour, cyanide can take any of the three forms: a liquid, a crystal powder, or even a colorless gas. It binds to haemoglobin, and prevents the red blood cells from carrying oxygen to different parts of the body — a replica of how carbon monoxide affects the red blood cells.
While the cyanide from sources like plants, foods, microbes, etc. are less harmful, the one from fire smoke or cigarette smoke are harmful. Even a small amount of it present in fire smoke can be lethal. Prolonged exposure to fire smoke may cause dizziness, nausea, continuous headache, etc. It may even result in permanent neurological damage.
The diagnosis and treatment of acute cyanide poisoning is difficult due to the fact that it may take days or even weeks before its serious neurological effects may actually start surfacing. In addition, the inhalation of airborne particles, and burns to organs like the throat or lungs may contribute further to its complexity.
As soon as one inhales smoke, the cyanide atoms that enter the body, start releasing the the CN– ion, a metabolic poison. The CN– ions start to bind to the iron atoms of cytochrome C oxidase present in mitochondria of cells. Acting as an unalterable enzyme inhibitor, the carbon and nitrogen ions prevent cytochrome C oxidase from transporting electrons to oxygen during anaerobic cellular respiration. As a consequence, mitochondria’s capacity to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is seriously impaired.
ATP is the source of energy for cells, and it is what keeps the cells alive. When the production of ATP stops, the cells stop functioning at first, and then start dying subsequently. The death of all the cells eventually leads to a person’s death.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a therapy based treatment that seeks to cure a recipient by virtue of inhalation of 100% oxygen in a closed body chamber under higher atmospheric pressure. HBOT enables the movement of an additional amount of dissolved oxygen which integrates with blood plasma, various body fluids, and the lymph. The dissolved oxygen then simulates the effects of other antidotes. A study advocates that HBOT speeds up detoxification. It proves highly effective when used in combination with antidote kits.