Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odourless, invisible gas that can build up in enclosed areas where fuels such as natural gas, gasoline, fuel oil, or wood are burned. When a person inhales carbon monoxide, it begins to replace the oxygen that is normally carried in the blood, which leads to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Fuels that produce carbon monoxide are burned in indoor heating systems, car engines, boat motors, cooking appliances, wood fires, and other places. Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can build up in semi-enclosed or even open areas, including swim areas behind boats.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause headaches, dizziness, or nausea. If the exposure to carbon monoxide continues, a person may lose consciousness and even die. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be hard to identify. The symptoms can also be caused by several other illnesses.
Treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning involves bringing blood oxygen levels back to normal. It is important that an affected person be removed from the area where carbon monoxide may be present and begin oxygen therapy if needed.
Medical Review:Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & R. Steven Tharratt, MD, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine