Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that comes from burning fuels such as natural gas, gasoline, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal. Carbon monoxide poisoning means that you breathe in too much CO instead of oxygen. Without oxygen, your body tissues are damaged and you could die.
Levels of CO can build up to dangerous levels in a short time if:
Symptoms may include:
Because you cannot see or smell CO, you may not know that CO poisoning is causing your symptoms. Symptoms of CO poisoning can be mistaken for flu or food poisoning. One way to check this is to leave your house and see if your symptoms get better. If they come back when you go back home, you should suspect CO poisoning. Also suspect carbon monoxide if others in your household start having these symptoms at about the same time.
If you are sleeping when the CO levels get too high, you may die before you ever wake up and notice any symptoms. Babies, older adults, and people with anemia, heart, or lung disease are very sensitive to high levels of CO. It is important to have carbon monoxide detectors in your home that alert you to dangerous CO levels.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You will have a blood test for CO poisoning.
If you have symptoms that you think could be caused by CO poisoning:
You will be given oxygen to treat CO poisoning.
If you have been treated for CO poisoning:
To prevent a buildup of CO in your home and car: