Understanding the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, stoves, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, furnaces, and similar devices. It is extremely harmful to people and animals who breathe it because it prevents your blood from carrying oxygen to your cells. Increased levels within an enclosed area can lead to poisoning or death, so having a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home can help save your life. If the alarm sounds, you’ll know to evacuate the home and call for help.
Why is Carbon Monoxide So Dangerous?
Carbon monoxide (CO) prevents your blood from carrying oxygen to your cells.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure overlap with other common illnesses so it’s often overlooked as the diagnosis. And because it doesn’t have a smell or odor, you may not know it is present.
- Mild exposure can cause: slight headache, fatigue, or nausea.
- More severe exposure can cause: confusion, sleepiness, convulsions, and unconsciousness.
- Prolonged exposure can cause: brain damage, heart and lung failure, and death.
People who are at higher risk of developing carbon monoxide poisoning may include young children, elderly adults, people with heart or lung disease, smokers (who already have elevated carbon monoxide levels in their blood), and those located at higher altitudes.
What Are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Exposure?
Some symptoms could include:
- Fatigue or weakness
- Loss of consciousness
- Blurred vision
- Loss of muscle control
- Increased heart rate
- Tightening in the chest
- Confusion and disorientation