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About Carbon Monoxide

     
         
 

National Institute of Health


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that causes thousands of deaths each year in North America. Breathing in carbon monoxide is very dangerous. It is the leading cause of poisoning death in the United States.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient
Carbon monoxide is a chemical produced from the incomplete burning of natural gas or other products containing carbon.

Where Found
The following items may produce carbon monoxide:

Anything that burns coal, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, or wood
Automobile engines
Charcoal grills (charcoal should never be burned indoors)
Indoor and portable heating systems
Portable propane heaters
Stoves (indoor and camp stoves)
Water heater that use natural gas

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.

Symptoms
When you breathe in carbon monoxide, the poison replaces the oxygen in your bloodstream. Your heart, brain, and body will become starved of oxygen.

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. Carbon monoxide can harm a fetus (unborn baby still in the womb).

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:

Breathing problems, including no breathing, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing
Chest pain (may occur suddenly in people with angina)
Coma
Confusion
Convulsions
Dizziness
Drowsiness
Fainting
Headache
Hyperactivity
Impaired judgment
Irritability
Low blood pressure
Muscle weakness
Rapid or abnormal heart beat
Shock
Nausea and vomiting
Unconsciousness

Home Care
If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air. Seek immediate medical help.

PREVENTION
Install a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home. Place an additional detector near any major gas burning appliances (such as a furnace or water heater).

Many carbon monoxide poisonings occur in the winter months when furnaces, gas fireplaces, and portable heaters are being used and windows are closed. Make sure you have any heaters and gas-burning appliances regularly inspected to make sure they are safe to use.