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Carbon monoxide poisoning is a colourless and odourless gas that, when inhaled over a period of time can cause illness and possibly death. Young people are at higher risk for carbon monoxide poisoning due to their small size. Carbon monoxide is found in fumes related to combustion such as those produced by trucks, cars, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal, small gasoline engines, wood burning, gas ranges and furnace heating systems. The CO can build up in an enclosed space and can be harmful to people and animals that breathe the substance in.

The symptoms of CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning are elusive and include a headache, weakness, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, chest pain and confusion. It can rapidly lead to a loss of consciousness and death. Unless this is suspected, it can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can look a lot like other symptoms. Those who are asleep during intoxication with CO can die from CO poisoning without ever waking up or having any symptoms at all.

Carbon monoxide poisoning happens because our red blood cells pick up carbon monoxide faster than they pick up oxygen. With enough CO in the air, the body replaces oxygen with carbon monoxide and the body suffocates from a lack of oxygen.

Certain groups of people are more likely to suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning. Unborn babies, infants and those with chronic heart disease, respiratory diseases or anaemia are at higher risk from dying from carbon monoxide poisoning. Around 400 individuals in the US suffer and die from carbon monoxide poisoning and about 20,000 people visit the ER every year, hospitalizing 4000 to treat carbon monoxide poisoning. The highest rate of fatality are those people who are 65 years or older.

The diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning comes from recognizing the symptoms of the condition and doing a blood test that will show elevated levels of carbon monoxide.

The treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning can be as simple as watchful waiting with oxygen masks on the victims. In severe cases, hyperbaric oxygen is used in order to pull out the CO and bring in pure oxygen to oxygenate the patients until the CO level drops.

You can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by having your heating systems, gas appliances, water heater and any other oil or coal burning appliances services by a quality technician each year. You shouldn't use flameless portable chemical heaters indoors. They burn gas but have no flame and can cause CO to build up inside your camper, home, cabin or other small space, such as a fish house. If you smell an odour coming from your gas refrigerator, you should have it serviced. The odour is not CO but represents a refrigerator unit that is not functioning properly. Any time you buy a gas-supplied piece of equipment, make sure it has been nationally tested by a certified agency that tests these kinds of products. You should put in a battery-operated CO detector and replace the batteries twice a year when you turn the clocks forward or back.

You should vent your gas appliances properly. All gas appliances must be vented so that CO will not build up in an enclosed space. Never burn anything within a fireplace or stove that is not vented. Check your chimney and have it cleaned once per year by a chimney sweep. Beware of debris that might be blocking the chimney outlet. Don't vent a pipe by putting tape or gum on it. CO can get inside such a patch and can cause CO to leak out. Don't have horizontal venting pipes to fuel appliances. All pipes should be at an angle upward so that CO gas doesn't build up in the pipes and leak out of joint spaces.

If the power is out, do not use a gas oven or range to heat your home. This can build up the CO level of the home or camper. Don't barbecue indoors or use a barbecue grill in an enclosed space. This will build up carbon monoxide into the space. Don't burn any kind of charcoal inside as they give off CO when they burn. Don't use a portable gas camp stove when you are indoors. There is a high risk of CO poisoning when using such stoves. You cannot use a generator indoors either. It burns on gasoline and gives off CO readily.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Our personal injury solicitors operate a specialist compensation service. Our solicitors deal with Carbon Monoxide Poisoning claims using a no win no fee arrangement which means that if you don�t win then you don�t pay them their professional costs. If you would like legal advice at no cost with no further obligation just complete the contact form or email our lawyers offices or use the helpline and a Carbon Monoxide Poisoning solicitor will review your medical negligence compensation claim and phone you immediately.

HELPLINE: ☎ 1800 633 634

The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here