Nitrous oxide, an oxide of nitrogen, is a colorless, incombustible gas at room temperature. It has a slightly sweet odor and taste. Due to its anesthetic and analgesic effects, it is widely used in surgery and dentistry. However, this gas is known to have certain ill effects on human health when used in excess. The upcoming article aims at enlightening you in this regard.
N2O is the chemical formula of nitrous oxide which is also known by other popular names, like laughing gas, inhalation sedation, happy gas, relative analgesia, nitro, nigh, buzz bomb, or whippets. Due to the euphoric effects of inhaling nitro, it is known as laughing gas. This property has led to its usage as a divisible anesthetic. It is generally used during childbirth to give a mild or general anesthesia.
Happy gas can also become an addiction as it is a dissociative drug. It is used to increase the power output of engines in rocketry and motor racing as it acts as an oxidizer. This gas reacts with ozone in the stratosphere and is the main naturally occurring regulator of stratospheric ozone. It is also an air pollutant and a major greenhouse gas. It is the fourth largest contributor to greenhouse gases after water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane.
Nitrous Oxide Side Effects Due to Short-term Exposure
Because happy gas is a compressed liquefied gas, a divisible anesthetic, and an asphyxiation risk, it poses some major safety hazards. Some of the most common ill effects are hallucinations, nausea, numbness, dizziness, unconsciousness, confusion, frostbite, anemia, poor mental performance, manual dexterity, and auditory disorders. It also affects the immune, reproductive, hematological, and neurological systems adversely. Apart from these, there are many other consequences that can become serious and even prove fatal if not attended at the earliest.
Serious Fallouts Due to Long-term Exposure
Deficiency of Oxygen
An overdose of N2O drug sedation leads to a condition called hypoxia in which the body or a region of it is deprived of adequate oxygen supply. The symptoms of hypoxia are breathing difficulty, no breathing at all, slow rate of breathing, and other respiratory problems. It also makes a person feel sleepy. This gas does not combine with the hemoglobin in the blood, but still manages to travel freely in this fluid and is exchanged in its original form in the lungs. This increases the chances of hypoxia. Though this side effect is very rare, but it is quite a serious one.
Nitrous oxide anesthesia has a negative effect on hearing in a small percentage of people. This anesthesia is given with the help of a mask that covers the mouth as well as the nose. This can create a pressure on the middle ear and result in ear problems, like bleeding in the ear, hearing impairment, or rupturing of typanic membrane.
Deficiency of Vitamin B12
The gas inactivates the cobalamin form of vitamin B12 by oxidation. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, such as sensory neuropathy, myelopathy, and encephalopathy can occur within a few days or weeks of exposure to nitro anesthesia. This condition is observed in people with subclinical vitamin B12 deficiency. The indicants are treated with high doses of vitamin B12, but the recovery is slow and incomplete in most cases.
Unless the exposure to nitro is repeated and prolonged (nitrous oxide abuse), people with normal vitamin B12 levels have stores to make the effects of N2O insignificant. Prior to using laughing gas anesthesia, vitamin B12 levels should be checked in people with risk factors for its deficiency.
Every individual who is given a dose of nitrous oxide is prone to developing hyperhomocysteinemia which is a medical condition characterized by an abnormally high level of homocysteine in the blood. Research shows that this condition increases the chances of acquiring heart diseases and Alzheimer’s disease in a few cases.
Apart from these side effects, this chemical should be strictly banned for patients having the following disorders:
- Bowel obstruction
- Sinus infections
- Middle ear disease
Chronic exposure to this gas during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy can have fatal effects, as it adversely affects the DNA of the newborn.
Remember to not confuse the fallouts of this gas with nitric oxide side effects. Stay away from this gas as far as possible, and in case of an exposure, immediately rush to the doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.