February 7, 2011

Effects of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Posted in Category : General Health

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that when inhaled can cause sudden illness and even death. It is formed as a byproduct of the combustion of fossil fuels and can be found in the exhaust emitted by any engine including cars, trucks, boats, small gasoline engines, and diesel generators. It is also found in the fumes emitted by stoves, lanterns, wood fire, gas ranges, heating systems and burning wood or charcoal.

Fumes emitted by these sources in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces can lead to a buildup of carbon monoxide.  People and animals residing in these enclosed spaces can be seriously affected by this buildup of carbon monoxide. Sometimes, with fatal consequences. The effects of carbon monoxide poisoning result from the fact that it binds to red blood cells much more readily than oxygen. Inhaling air mixed with carbon monoxide will result in blood oxygen being replaced with carbon monoxide. This causes oxygen starvation which can damage tissue and lead to death. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, chest pains and confusion. Since these symptoms are similar to that of many other conditions, diagnosis can be difficult. However, these symptoms will rapidly disappear when the affected person moves away from the source of the fumes and out into the open.

The danger arises when a person is asleep or inebriated since they will be unaware that anything is amiss. Such cases frequently result in death. The relative ease with which carbon monoxide can affect us has earned it the nickname “The Silent Killer” and accounts for the large number of people who attempt suicide using this method.

The insidious nature of carbon monoxide poisoning means that certain groups of people are more at risk. These groups include unborn babies, infants, those suffering from chronic heart disease and respiratory disorders. Every year approximately 20,000 Americans require emergency treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning with a fatality rate of approximately 400 people, most of whom are 65 years or older.

As such there are no home remedies for carbon monoxide poisoning. Moving away from the source of the fumes and breathing fresh air will work in milder cases. Severe cases of carbon monoxide poisoning require emergency treatment with oxygen and may even require hospitalization.

It is better to have preventive measures in place to avoid the buildup of carbon monoxide in homes. In order to do this, carbon monoxide detectors should be installed wherever the gas is emitted. Houses that have heating systems and other sources of carbon monoxide should have a detector in every room, including the garage. Periodic checkups of the detectors are a must and one must ensure that the batteries are changed regularly.

Heating systems and any other appliances in the house that burns coal, gas or oil should be serviced by a qualified technician every year. Avoid using catalytic heaters, charcoal grills and barbeque grills indoors. All gas appliances must be placed in areas that are properly ventilated. The vent pipes should always be installed at an incline to facilitate the release of gas. Vent pipes that develop cracks should be repaired in the correct manner. Avoid using temporary fixes such as gum or tape to cover cracks. If you have a fireplace make sure that it is kept clean. Have the chimneys inspected and cleaned regularly.

If you have a garage that connects to your house, always make sure that the interconnecting door is shut. Never leave the car engine running while the garage door is shut. Have your car serviced regularly and have the mechanic check the exhaust system every year. Leaks in the exhaust system can result in carbon monoxide escaping into the car.


  1. http://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm