Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

CO is colorless, odorless, and tasteless - without the aid of a Carbon Monoxide Detector you have no way of knowing you've been exposed until obvious symptoms set in, and even then you may mistake the symptoms for something else.

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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

As you can see from the list of symptoms below, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning results in effects that are very similar to other illnesses and causes.

If you experience the following symptoms and your carbon monoxide detector is beeping, then you should assume you have been exposed and seek immediate medical assistance. You should not drive under these circumstances because you're ability to control a motor vehicle may very likely be impaired - call for an ambulance instead.

Low Dose Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Dizziness

By low dose we mean 100 parts per million of CO in the air. Depending on your personal sensitivity symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 8 hours of constant exposure.

High Does Symptoms

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired judgment
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Visual changes
  • Fainting
  • Seizure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Walking / Coordination difficulty
  • Unconsciousness

Depending on the level of exposure, symptoms can appear anywhere from minutes to several hours of exposure.

If you are already ill, intoxicated, or asleep, you probably won't notice the onset of poisoning symptoms without a Carbon Monoxide Alarm to alert you to the danger.

How Does Carbon Monoxide cause Poisoning?

Carbon Monoxide (CO) has some chemical properties which make it chemically similar to a single atom of Oxygen (O).

When you breathe in CO it binds to the Hemoglobin in your blood, which is what Oxygen normally does. This means you aren't getting enough oxygen to your vital organs.

But it's worse than that, because CO actually binds to Hemoglobin about 230 times more efficiently than Oxygen.

To make matters even worse, the amount of Oxygen in your blood may actually increase when you are suffering from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, but the Oxygen that is present gets stuck in your hemoglobin and is unable to be transferred to your tissues and organs that need it.

Further Reading

For more detailed information on CO Poisoning please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.