(Newark, NJ) – Warning. Do NOT smoke hookah pipes in small and/or poorly ventilated spaces (i.e. basements, sheds, dorm rooms, vehicles, attics, boat cabins).
Case: A young adult male passed out after smoking hookah in a small, poorly ventilated room. The patient was transported to the emergency room and was diagnosed with severe carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning; received oxygen and was transferred to a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for further medical care. The long-term neurologic effects are not yet known.
While most people think of gas appliances, heating systems, portable gas generators, charcoal or gas grills, and chimney flues as potential sources of carbon monoxide, smoking hookah is quickly gaining recognition among the healthcare community as a potential source. There are approximately 100 cases reported in the medical literature discussing the risk for CO poisoning to hookah smokers and those around them. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning depends on the size of the space you are smoking in, the number of people smoking in that space and how well ventilated the space is.
“As we see every heating season, carbon monoxide can and does kill,” says Diane Calello, MD, NJ Poison Control Center Executive and Medical Director, Rutgers NJ Medical School’s Department of Emergency Medicine. Carbon monoxide is known as the “Silent Killer” for a reason. It is a gas that gives no warning – you cannot see it, smell it or taste it. “While the risk of CO poisoning from hookah smoke is recognized among healthcare providers, the risk seems less familiar to hookah smokers themselves."