Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, tasteless and highly poisonous gas which is produced by combustion. Some sources of carbon monoxide are automobile engine exhaust, portable propane heaters, natural gas appliances, furnaces, water heaters, wood-burning fireplaces and barbecue grills.

Poisoning occurs from the inhalation of carbon monoxide gas. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:

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  • headache
  • irritability
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • poor coordination
  • unconsciousness
  • shortness of breath
  • lack of breathing
  • chest pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • abnormal heartbeat
  • coma

The exposure level of carbon monoxide influences the symptoms, recovery and damage done to an individual. Mental abilities can be impaired and permanent brain damage can occur.

Emergency treatment for an individual exposed to carbon monoxide includes moving the exposed individual to an area with fresh air, calling 911 or the appropriate emergency services number and ventilating the affected area. If the individual has stopped breathing, artificial breathing, such as CPR, should be initiated.

Knowledge is the first step to preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide can be detected in the home by installing carbon monoxide alarms.

Other precautions are to assure:

  • All fuel-burning appliances are correctly used and maintained
  • Furnaces, water heaters, and gas dryers are inspected every year
  • Fireplace chimneys and flues are inspected and cleaned every year
  • Automobile exhaust systems are regularly checked for defects

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