Carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t something you necessarily hear a lot about when it comes to health, but it’s still something you should take precautions against, as well as extremely important to know the warning signs of.

First, you may be wondering, ‘What is carbon monoxide?’ It’s a gas that is produced by burning things like fuel, oil, kerosene, charcoal or wood. Whether you’re in your own home, another building, or a vehicle, it is possible to develop carbon monoxide poisoning. Next, you’re probably wondering what makes carbon monoxide so dangerous in the first place. It is dangerous because, when you breathe it in, the oxygen in your blood gets replaced by it; and when carbon monoxide binds with the blood, cells throughout the body begin to die, and crucial organs (such as the brain and heart) cease functioning. If you breathe in too much carbon monoxide, it can be deadly within a matter of minutes; and it is especially dangerous because it is not something that you can smell, see or taste at all, which is why it is so vital to know the symptoms so that you can keep yourself and others protected from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Early warning signs that you may have developed carbon monoxide poisoning can include symptoms such as headaches, nausea and dizziness. As more carbon monoxide builds up within your blood, the aforementioned symptoms will worsen, and you can also develop drowsiness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, and even vision problems. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s essential that you do not ignore them. If you’re in an enclosed area, you should get out of that location immediately and go somewhere where there is fresh air – i.e. outside, seek immediate attention from a neighbour or passerby, and call 911. There are also cases where carbon monoxide poisoning can develop over a long period of time as a result of breathing in lower levels of this deadly gas. You may notice that you are becoming short of breath over time, as well as have mild headaches and feelings of nausea when indoors. Typically, if carbon monoxide is present where you are, others in the same area where you live or work will also experience the same symptoms. Pets may also even get sick. If your symptoms are the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, you will feel better as soon as you leave the area that is contaminated with carbon monoxide.

If it is suspected that your symptoms are the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, you can have a blood test done that measures just how much carbon monoxide there is in your blood. When it comes to treating carbon monoxide poisoning, you will be given oxygen. This can be done by breathing in oxygen through a mask, or through something known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in which you will lie inside a chamber that delivers high pressure oxygen to you in a much quicker way. Most people who have experienced carbon monoxide poisoning will fully recover after a few days, though there is a possibility that problems can also develop later on. If you notice any changes in your behaviour, coordination or vision, it’s important to let your doctor know.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, make sure you are operating vehicles and fuel-burning tools properly. It is also strongly recommended that everyone have carbon monoxide detectors in their home. For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning, click here.