Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream. When too much carbon monoxide is in the air, your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This can lead to serious tissue damage, or even death. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced by burning gas, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel. Improperly ventilated appliances and engines, particularly in a tightly sealed or enclosed space, may allow carbon monoxide to accumulate to dangerous levels. If you think you or someone you’re with may have carbon monoxide poisoning, get into fresh air and seek emergency medical care.

Symptoms

  • Dull headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be especially dangerous for people who are sleeping or intoxicated. People may have irreversible brain damage or even be killed before anyone realizes there’s a problem.

Causes

Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by inhaling combustion fumes. When too much carbon monoxide is in the air you’re breathing, your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This prevents oxygen from reaching your tissues and organs. Various fuel-burning products and engines produce carbon monoxide. Normally the amount of carbon monoxide produced by these sources isn’t cause for concern. But if they’re used in a closed or partially closed space — such as using a charcoal grill indoors — the carbon monoxide can build to dangerous levels. Smoke inhalation during a fire also can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

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