Despite the fact that it only affects a small percentage of the population each year, carbon monoxide poisoning is no trivial matter. This lethal gas can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms and go virtually undetected until the victim eventually loses consciousness and dies. It’s extremely important to be aware of the signs of CO poisoning so as to avoid this undesirable end. Especially if you’re a parent or a homeowner, you should be mindful of the signs and symptoms so that you can recognize it in others. It’s also critical to be able to recognize those signs in yourself, should you be alone when a dangerous amount of carbon monoxide arises.
Signs and Symptoms
Carbon monoxide first attacks the bodily systems that rely on oxygen, specifically the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and the heart. In general, carbon monoxide poisons its victims with symptoms reminiscent of the flu virus. Unfortunately, that means that it often goes undetected because doctors misdiagnose it. Initial symptoms include headaches and dizziness, nausea, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. However, some people of varying levels of health may not experience these symptoms and may only experience the more critical, acute symptoms of CO poisoning. The serious symptoms are vomiting, respiratory trouble, delirium, seizures, heart arrhythmia or fast heart rate, loss of muscle control and coordination, loss of consciousness, and in the end, loss of life.
Generally speaking, the healthier you are, the longer it will take for carbon monoxide to poison your system. Of course, for high levels of carbon monoxide poisoning, this is not going to save you much time, if any! This only means that if you are predisposed with health issues such heart disease, respiratory problems, anemia, low metabolism, and a sedentary lifestyle, you are more likely to suffer the effects of mild carbon monoxide exposure.
Even if treated, the effects of CO poisoning can be long term; some individuals experience neurological damage and heart damage. Various neurological sequelae can continue for as long as 40 days in victims. Some of the neurological effects that can be prolonged after exposure are memory loss, irritability, depression, and psychosis.
As it is difficult to recognize this gas, a carbon monoxide alarm can help you be aware of the levels of carbon monoxide in your home. If you don’t have one installed, consider installing one to keep you forewarned of an onset of carbon monoxide because it can tell you exactly how many ppm of carbon monoxide are in your home. Chronic exposure levels of 100 ppm or more are going to be dangerous to your health, so be prepared to contact medical authorities and security professionals if the number rises above that. Also be aware of the signs of chronic poisoning so that you can guard against it – if you experience persistent lightheadedness or headaches, confusion, depression, nausea, etc., have your home checked for carbon monoxide. It’s unknown just how significant an effect carbon monoxide poisoning can have on your health, but the risks are especially great for pregnant women and for persons with heart disease.