Everyone is exposed to small amounts of carbon monoxide (CO) throughout the day. However, at high levels or during continued exposure, CO can cause suffocation, resulting in loss of consciousness, brain damage, or death.
Initial symptoms of CO poisoning can be mistaken for flu symptoms. Depending on the air concentration of CO and how long the CO is breathed in, victims can experience any combination of the following symptoms:
- Dull headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness of the chest
- Blurred vision
- Fluttering of the heart
- Redness of the skin
- Altered consciousness
- Loss of consciousness
You might have carbon monoxide poisoning if:
- CO poisoning should be suspected if more than one member of the family is sick. It usually takes several days for the flu to pass from person to person, however if there’s a potentiality for CO poisoning, then in the same household might have more than one individual experiencing the same flu-like symptoms simultaneously.
- CO poisoning should be suspected if those who are sick experience a remission of symptoms after being away from the area for a period of time; and/or
- CO poisoning should be suspected if symptoms occur or get worse shortly after turning on a fuel-burning device (e.g., generator, vehicle, tool).
High-level concentration exposure
The highest number of reports of carbon monoxide poisoning stem from acute high-level exposure, usually from malfunctioning heating devices. These occurrences typically result in symptoms of headache, malaise, problems breathing, which if allowed to continue untreated and undetected can escalate, causing complications and death.
Prolonged low-level concentration exposure
Prolonged low-concentration exposure symptoms can be more difficult to recognize, often first appearing as mild and ongoing flu-like symptoms. Studies suggest that prolonged exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can lead to various chronic neurological disorders including the manifestation of Parkinsonian-type symptoms, intellectual deterioration, memory impairment, and changes in emotional stability.
When in doubt, get out!
As symptoms of CO poisoning increase, you may become confused and less capable of making decisions that could save your life. Keep in mind, your senses will not alert you to CO or the presence of increasing levels of the poisonous gas because it’s odorless and tasteless.
If you’re having trouble identifying whether or not you are experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, first, get outdoors or leave the enclosed space immediately. As you exit, turn off heaters and electrical appliances in your path and leave the doors open.
Who to call for help
Once you’ve left the area you believe to be contaminated, call 911. Don’t go back into the area until emergency service professionals tell you that it’s safe to return.
Need more resources?
Please visit our Carbon Monoxide directory for more resources about carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you or a loved one has been hospitalized or has suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of a leak at a school, a hotel, or any other business, please contact Rocky McElhaney Law Firm’s dedicated and specialized carbon monoxide poisoning attorneys today at 615-425-2500 or contact the firm online. We fight for you.