Carbon monoxide is a gas. It is a product of incomplete combustion of natural or petroleum gas. It has no odor or color. You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it; but carbon monoxide can kill you. Inhaling the gas reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, leaving the body’s organs and cells starved of oxygen.
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Common sources of carbon monoxide is automobiles on road and in in the home include faulty central heating systems, gas appliances and fires. Blocked flues and chimneys mean the gas can’t escape and is inhaled by the unsuspecting individual.CO from these fumes can build up in places that don’t have a good flow of fresh air. One can be poisoned by breathing them in.
It is often hard to tell if someone has CO poisoning, because the symptoms may be like those of other illnesses. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms. A CO detector can warn you if you have high levels of CO in your home.
The symptoms of mild carbon monoxide poisoning may be non-specific and similar to those of viral cold and flu infections or food poisoning: headache, nausea, abdominal pain, dizziness, sore throat and dry cough.
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are:
•Flu-like symptoms, fatigue
•Shortness of breath on exertion
•Memory and walking problems
In children, the symptoms are similar to those of a stomach upset, with nausea and vomiting.
More severe poisoning can result in a fast and irregular heart rate, hyperventilation, confusion, drowsiness and difficulty breathing. Seizures and loss of consciousness may also occur.
Some symptoms can occur a few days or even months after exposure to carbon monoxide. These may include confusion, loss of memory and problems with coordination.
Carbon monoxide is formed when organic compounds burn. The most common sources are motor vehicle exhaust, smoke from fires, engine fumes, and nonelectric heaters. Carbon monoxide poisoning is often associated with malfunctioning or obstructed exhaust systems and with suicide attempts.
Sources of carbon monoxide:
•Gas water heaters
•Kerosene space heaters
•Propane heaters and stoves
•Gasoline and diesel powered generators
•Gasoline powered concrete saws
•Indoor tractor pulls
•Any boat with an engine
•Spray paint, solvents, degreasers, and paint removers
Risks for exposure to carbon monoxide include:
•Children riding in the back of enclosed pickup trucks (particularly high risk)
•Industrial workers at pulp mills, steel foundries, and plants producing formaldehyde or coke (a hard grey fuel)
•Personnel at fire scenes
•Using heating sources or electric generators during power outages
•Those working indoors with combustion engines or combustible gases
•Swimming near or under the stern or swim-step of a boat with the boat engine running
•Back drafting when a boat is operated at a high bow angle
•Mooring next to a boat that is running a generator or engine
•Improper boat ventilation
Because signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are not specific, a blood test to look for it is the best way to make the diagnosis.
•The treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning is high-dose oxygen, usually using a facemask attached to an oxygen reserve bag.
•Carbon monoxide levels in the blood may be periodically checked until they are low enough to safely send you home.
•In severe poisoning, if available, a hyperbaric pressure chamber may be used to give even higher doses of oxygen.
•It is important to find the source of the carbon monoxide. Your local fire department or public service company will help find the source of carbon monoxide and make sure the building is safe.
Self-Care at Home:
•Move all family members and pets to fresh air away from the source of carbon monoxide (CO).
•No home therapy is available for carbon monoxide poisoning.
•You must seek medical care in a hospital emergency department.
The prognosis for a person with carbon monoxide poisoning is difficult to predict.
•Death can result from severe cases.
•Even with proper treatment, some people develop long-term brain damage, resulting in complications such as severe memory loss, difficulty thinking, or other neurologic or psychiatric problems.
•Others appear to have no long-term problems.
*People who suffer mild poisoning invariably make a full recovery. Between ten and 50 per cent of those with severe poisoning may suffer long-term problems.
Your best protection is to install a carbon monoxide alarm on each level of your home or boat as your first line of defense. According to the National Fire Protection Association some 93% of homes have smoke alarms, yet the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that only 15% have carbon monoxide alarms. A carbon monoxide monitor with an audible alarm works much like a home smoke alarm and beeps loudly when the sensors detect carbon monoxide.
•If the alarm sounds, evacuate the building. People who have symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning should seek emergency medical care. Call the fire department or public service company to investigate.
•Inspect your home for hazards.
*Your home heating system, chimney, and flue must be inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician every year. Keep chimneys clear of bird and squirrel nests, leaves, and residue to ensure proper ventilation.
*Be sure your furnace and other appliances, such as gas ovens, ranges, and cook tops, are inspected for adequate ventilation.
*Do not burn charcoal inside your house (even in the fireplace). Have gas fireplaces inspected each fall to ensure the pilot light burns safely.
*Do not operate gasoline-powered engines in confined areas such as garages or basements. Do not leave your car, mower, or other vehicle running in an attached garage, even with the door open.
*Do not block or seal shut exhaust flues or ducts for appliances such as water heaters, ranges, and clothes dryers.
*Become familiar with the hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning and boating (please see Web Links section).
For More Information:
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.
- How to Detect Carbon Monoxide in Your Home (everydayhealth.com)
- Carbon Monoxide Hazards and Your Home (homeownersinsurance.org)
- Gas safety warning issued (premierlinedirect.co.uk)
- Kenmore resident dies from carbon-monoxide poisoning from barbecue placed in apartment (seattlepi.com)
- 15 treated for carbon monoxide in Utah jail (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Health Update: Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (harlemworldblog.wordpress.com)
- My soul intent is to increase awareness of CO exposure and the damage it can do. (cothesilentkiller.com)