Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless — and extremely dangerous. Don't count on detecting it. Instead, prevent it.
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 gasoline, 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.
Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be particularly dangerous for people who are sleeping or intoxicated. People may have irreversible brain damage or even die before anyone realizes there's a problem.
The warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can be subtle. But the condition is a life-threatening medical emergency. If you think you or someone you're with may have carbon monoxide poisoning, get into fresh air and seek emergency medical care.
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 appliances and engines produce carbon monoxide. The amount of carbon monoxide produced by these sources usually isn't cause for concern. But if they're used in a closed or partially closed space — cooking with a charcoal grill indoors, for example — the carbon monoxide can build to dangerous levels.
Smoke inhalation during a fire also can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Exposure to carbon monoxide may be particularly dangerous for:
Depending on the degree and length of exposure, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause:
Simple precautions can help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
Keep your fuel-burning appliances and engines properly vented. These include:
Ask your utility company about yearly checkups for all gas appliances, including your furnace.
Use caution when working with solvents in a closed area. Methylene chloride, a solvent commonly found in paint and varnish removers, can break down (metabolize) into carbon monoxide when inhaled. Exposure to methylene chloride can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
When working with solvents at home, use them only outdoors or in well-ventilated areas. Carefully read the instructions and follow the safety precautions on the label.
If you're brought to an emergency room with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, you may begin treatment immediately. To confirm your diagnosis, the doctor may test a sample of your blood for carbon monoxide.
Get into fresh air immediately and call 911 or emergency medical help if you or someone you're with develops signs or symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. These include headache, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, weakness and confusion.
Once you're at the hospital, treatment may involve:
Spending time in a pressurized oxygen chamber. In many cases, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is recommended. This therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a chamber in which the air pressure is about two to three times higher than normal. This speeds the replacement of carbon monoxide with oxygen in your blood.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be used in cases of severe carbon monoxide poisoning. It helps protect heart and brain tissue, which are particularly vulnerable to injury from carbon monoxide poisoning. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may also be recommended for pregnant women because unborn babies are more susceptible to damage from carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you or someone you're with develops signs or symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning — headache, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, weakness, confusion — get into fresh air immediately and call 911 or emergency medical help.
Hospital staff will need critical information as soon as you arrive. On the way to the hospital, try to prepare to answer questions about:
December 22nd, 2020