Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas, generally found in combustion fumes produced by charcoal grills, heaters, fireplaces, car engines, portable generators, car mufflers and more. (Kahn, 2018) Carbon Monoxide poisoning occurs when one inhales too much of these combustion fumes. The body replaces oxygen with carbon monoxide in the cells if there is too much carbon monoxide in the air you breathe, which prevents the oxygen from reaching your organs. Smoke inhalation during a fire can also lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. (Mayo Clinic, 2019)
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning presents itself as all the symptoms of the flu but without a fever. The longer a person is exposed to Carbon Monoxide, the worse the symptoms get. (Brazier, 2017) Some of the common symptoms are:
- Dull Headache
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Blurred Vision
- Shortness of Breath
- Loss of Balance
- Memory Problems
Serious poisoning can also cause long-term problems, like heart damage. (Kahn, 2018)
Risks of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
While exposure to Carbon Monoxide is bad for all, it may cause further damage in the following cases:
People with Chronic Heart Disease: People suffering from or with a history of anemia or with breathing problems are more susceptible to harm from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Elderly: Older adults who are exposed to too much carbon monoxide are more likely to suffer from brain damage.
Children: Since children take more breaths than adults, they are exposed to more carbon monoxide and can fall sick faster.
Unborn Babies: Fetal blood cells can absorb carbon monoxide more readily than adult blood cells, leading to higher susceptibility to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide can be far more dangerous for people who are intoxicated or sleeping. If a person becomes unconscious because of carbon monoxide poisoning, it means they are more affected. This can result in irreversible brain damage or even death before the problem can be diagnosed. (Mayo Clinic, 2019)
Prevention of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
A few simple precautions can help avoid or lessen the leakage of carbon monoxide into the air. Ensure you follow these precautionary measures:
- Keep your home appliances like charcoal grills, heaters, generators, etc. in proper working order and get them serviced regularly.
- Make sure your rooms and all spaces are well-ventilated and that vents are not blocked.
- Do not leave any vehicles running in a closed garage, especially if it is an attached garage.
- Sweep and clean the chimneys and flues thoroughly by a professional, at least once a year.
- Do not use a generator within 20 feet of your window, vent, or door.
- Do not use charcoal for indoor grills. Ensure that you do not certain appliances like gas stove indoors or in a closed environment.
- Service the exhaust pipe of motor vehicles regularly.
- Wear a mask or be cautious when exposed to methylene chloride.
Installing carbon monoxide detectors is also a great way to prevent any mishaps. There are detectors available that sound an alarm if the carbon monoxide in the air crosses a certain limit. Such detectors are also available for boats and motor homes. (Mayo Clinic, 2019)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 400 Americans die every year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning that is not caused by fires. There are more than 20,000 emergency room visits, and over 4,000 hospitalizations. (Brazier, 2017) Carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to major damage in not only humans but also pets, who react more quickly to it. (Brazier, 2017) In the case of exposure to carbon monoxide, immediately call 911 and seek professional help. Avoid the place of the incident until the source of the poisoning can be found and repaired, with the help of professionals.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. 16 Oct. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/carbon-monoxide/symptoms-causes/syc-20370642.
Kahn, April. “Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Overview, Symptoms and Diagnosis.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 29 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/carbon-monoxide-poisoning.
Brazier, Yvette. “Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning: Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 11 Dec. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/171876.