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Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, 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
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.
Current as of:
June 4, 2014
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology
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