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Symptoms and Signs of 19 Carbon Monoxide Gas Poisoning Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Risks

Doctor's Notes on 19 Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Sympoms, Causes, Treatment, and Risks

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas. Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are many, people may display one or more, and are as follows: headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, flu-like symptoms, shortness of breath on exertion, impaired judgment, memory problems, walking problems, confusion, brain damage, depression, hallucinations, agitation, chest pain, drowsiness, visual changes, fainting and/or seizures. Another potential sign of impending or ongoing carbon monoxide poisoning is being alerted by a carbon monoxide detector.

Carbon monoxide is formed when organic compounds burn. Causes of carbon monoxide poisoning are numerous; common sources are motor vehicle exhausts, fires, engine fumes of any type and non-electric heaters. Other fairly common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning are as follows: gas water heaters, kerosene space heaters, propane heaters and stoves, gasoline and diesel-powered generators, propane fueled forklifts, indoor tractor pulls, boat engines, charcoal grills, cigarette smoke from wildfires, spray paint solvents, degreasers and paint removers (especially if burnt).

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

19 Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Sympoms, Causes, Treatment, and Risks Symptoms

Exposure to carbon monoxide is most commonly accompanied by the following symptoms:

  1. Headache
  2. Dizziness
  3. Nausea
  4. Flu-like symptoms, fatigue
  5. Shortness of breath on exertion
  6. Impaired judgment
  7. Chest pain
  8. Confusion
  9. Depression
  10. Hallucinations
  11. Agitation
  12. Vomiting
  13. Abdominal pain
  14. Drowsiness
  15. Visual changes
  16. Fainting
  17. Seizure
  18. Memory problems
  19. Walking problems

19 Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Sympoms, Causes, Treatment, and Risks Causes

Carbon monoxide is formed when organic compounds burn. The most common sources are motor vehicle exhaust, smoke from fires, engine fumes, and nonelectric heaters. Carbon monoxide poisoning is often associated with malfunctioning or obstructed exhaust systems and with suicide attempts.

Sources of carbon monoxide:

  • Gas water heaters
  • Kerosene space heaters
  • Charcoal grills
  • Propane heaters and stoves
  • Gasoline and diesel powered generators
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Propane-fueled forklifts
  • Gasoline powered concrete saws
  • Indoor tractor pulls
  • Boats engines
  • Spray paint, solvents, degreasers, and paint removers
  • Smoke inhalation from a wildfire

Risks for exposure to carbon monoxide include

  • Children riding in the back of enclosed pickup trucks (particularly high risk)
  • Industrial workers at pulp mills, steel foundries, and plants producing formaldehyde or coke (a hard grey fuel)
  • Personnel at fire scenes
  • Using heating sources or electric generators during power outages
  • Those working indoors with combustion engines or combustible gases
  • Swimming near or under the stern or swim-step of a boat with the boat engine running
  • Back drafting when a boat is operated at a high bow angle
  • Mooring next to a boat that is running a generator or engine
  • Improper boat ventilation

What’s Causing Your Indoor Air Pollution? Slideshow

What’s Causing Your Indoor Air Pollution? Slideshow

You can’t see it, but sometimes you can smell it. Indoor air pollution can occur from a huge variety of chemicals, products, even pets. It can aggravate, irritate, and in some cases cause serious harm.

Some of the pollutants have been in human homes since our cave-dwelling days. Combustion from fire can create harmful chemicals. Others have only been introduced to our homes in modern times. And some come from the natural environment, including bacteria and mold. All combined, indoor air pollution causes 3.8 million deaths worldwide each year from diseases such as stroke and lung cancer.

Whatever the cause, and wherever it comes from, being able to identify indoor air pollution can help you and your loved ones breathe easier. It may also reduce your risk of serious long term health problems. In the following slides, discover some of the common sources of indoor air pollution that you can learn to avoid for a cleaner, safer home.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.