Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. It is also flammable and is quite toxic to humans and other oxygen-breathing organisms. Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when enough carbon monoxide is inhaled.
CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by cars and trucks, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal, burning wood, and gas ranges and heating systems.
Breathing carbon monoxide fumes decreases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Low levels of oxygen can lead to cell death, including cells in the vital organs such as the brain and heart.
Symptoms vary from person to person. Those at high risk include young children, the elderly, persons with lung or heart disease, people at high altitudes, and smokers. Symptoms may include:
- Nausea, vomiting (often seen in children).
More severe symptoms may include:
- Confusion, drowsiness.
- Rapid breathing or pulse rate.
- Vision problems.
- Chest pain.
- Convulsions, seizures.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Cardiac arrest.
- Respiratory failure.
Carbon monoxide can be harmful to the fetus.
- Immediately leave the area and get fresh air, immediately remove the victim from the site of exposure.
- Call for medical help.
- If the victim is unconscious, start CPR.
- Depending on the severity of the poisoning, 100% oxygen may be given as soon as it is available.
- Hospitalization may be needed and further treatment will be given depending on the condition of the victim.
- In severe cases hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be used.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home.
- Check the battery once per year.
- Inspect and properly maintain heating system, chimneys and appliances.
- Use non electrical space heaters only in well ventilated areas.
- Don’t use gas oven or stove to heat your house.
- Don’t burn charcoal inside your home, garage, or tent or camper.
- Don’t leave cars running inside the garage.
- If you are using a kerosene heater indoors, make sure there is good ventilation.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause death. For those who survive, recovery is slow. Prognosis depends on the amount and length of exposure to the carbon monoxide.
This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.