Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Mother and son beside door 86496673When it comes to life safety, carbon monoxide poisoning is pretty high up there on the list. Truth be told, it’s not the most common of life threats, but it is the leading cause of death by poisoning in the United States. That means that it’s a bigger threat than even household cleaning products, which many new parents will hide behind locked cupboards so their children won’t accidentally ingest them. And yet we rarely think about carbon monoxide and its poisonous effects. There are many reasons why CO poisoning is so significant a cause of death and hospitalization, including that it is odorless and colorless and therefore undetectable by humans, as well as the fact that its symptoms are so much like those of the common flu. But you can detect some symptoms if you are watchful for them.

Acute Poisoning

Acute CO poisoning is when there is a sudden strong influx of carbon monoxide in the area. It’s more common if you’re in an enclosed space where CO has been produced, because that enclosed space has no ventilation to clear it out.

Mild Exposure Symptoms: With mild acute poisoning, you will experience symptoms like the flu including headaches, fatigue, confusion, lightheadedness, malaise, and dizziness.
Serious Exposure Symptoms: When the exposure is serious or increased, you may experience significant consequences like fainting, cardiac arrest, and death. Another problem that some people experience as a result of serious acute CO poisoning is neurological damage. The heart rate will accelerate and your blood pressure lower, leading to central nervous system problems like delirium, seizures, fainting, and respiratory arrest.

Chronic Poisoning

Usually, chronic poisoning from carbon monoxide happens over a period of time in which, for example, a faulty furnace or blocked engine exhaust pipe will cause limited exposure. Symptoms of chronic CO poisoning include depression, memory loss, confusion, hypoxia, vomiting, and possibly atherosclerosis. Senior Woman on Ambulance Stretcher 177100358However, once you are removed from the setting, your symptoms will likely disappear from chronic exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide.

Additional Dangerous Effects

Those with heart problems or women who are pregnant should be especially careful to avoid carbon monoxide because the lasting effects on the heart and the fetus can be profound, especially if there is chronic exposure. The consequence for any exposed victim can be shortened life span because of the damage done to the heart and cardiovascular system. With acute CO poisoning, there are often long term sequelae or chronic pathological conditions that perpetuate, such as memory loss, unsteady gait, psychosis, depression, dementia, and even syndromes like Parkinson’s disease.

Tolerance Levels

Different people will have differing levels of tolerance for carbon monoxide. It is thought that levels lower than 100 ppm will not have a significant impact on health unless there is prolonged exposure. Factors such as pre-existing health conditions like cardiovascular disease, heart troubles, lung problems, low activity level, and more will affect your tolerance level for carbon monoxide.

With an understanding of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, you can be on the watch for it. Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home to enable you to keep an eye out and to keep you protected against the risks of this life-threatening poisonous gas.