Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

18 Feb

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas that is odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that causes sudden illness and death.    It is very tough to detect. Carbon monoxide is found in fumes produced by motor vehicles such as cars and trucks, gas ranges, various gas appliances, heating systems, lanterns, stoves, gasoline engines, and burning wood and charcoal.

Any buildup of carbon monoxide in small spaces causes people and animals to become poisoned by inhaling through the normal process of respirations in breathing (inhaling and exhaling) in and out without ever suspecting a problem.  Each inhalation of carbon monoxide will then attach to red blood cells instead of oxygen.  

Headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, disorientation or confusion, are the main symptoms associated with carbon monoxide. These symptoms can mimic a number of other illnesses, hence is difficult to diagnose.   If someone is sleeping or intoxicated they my never encounter any symptoms before death occurs.  Small amounts of carbon monoxide can cause neurological damage, hypoxic injury and even death.  The organ systems most dependent upon oxygen are the heart and central nervous system. 

The red blood cells usually pick up oxygen, but the carbon monoxide is picked up quicker then oxygen.  This causes the body to replace oxygen with carbon monoxide.  Oxygen is vital to life.  Since the oxygen is blocked tissues are damaged and this can cause death.  The carbon monoxide can also attach to proteins in tissues which destroys tissues and causes injury and often death if not quickly identified.  Carbon monoxide are deadly fumes.

Treatment occurs by administering 100% oxygen or hyperbaric oxygen therapy.  This increases oxygen to the normal levels by removing carbon monoxide from the blood.  

The most common and fatal form of poisoning is carbon monoxide.  It is a major health problem.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


  • Use a Battery-Operated or Battery back-up Carbon Monoxide detector
  • If you suspect anything contact your Gas Utility Company
  • Never use portable flameless chemical heater indoors
  • Vent ALL gas appliance vent outside so carbon monoxide doesn’t build up indoors
  • All stoves & fireplaces must be vented
  • Have your chimney cleaned and checked yearly.  Blocked debris can cause buildup in home
  • Never patch venting system with tape
  • Don’t use oven for heating your home
  • Never use charcoal or barbecue grill indoors
  • Never use generator indoors.
  • Never use portable gas camp stoves indoors
  • Never burn charcoal indoors


  • Never run vehicle in garage with door closed
  • Always open garage door
  • Never run car or truck in garage that is attached to house
  • Get mechanic to check exhaust system of car every year
  • Open vents or windows in car

***Watch for the next post on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and why this is important to me personally.

Have you or anyone you know been exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning?  What have you learned about their situations?


**********All material presented on Brain Injury Self Rehabilitation (BISR) is copyright and cannot be, copied, reproduced, or distributed in any way without the express, written consent of Edith E. Flickinger, BSN RN. 



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