Carbon monoxide (CO) is a clear and odourless toxic gas. It does not irritate the eyes or respiratory tract.
When a person inhales carbon monoxide, the gas enters their blood and interferes with oxygen intake. This damages tissue and can be extremely dangerous to health.
The effects of carbon monoxide poisoning vary according to the following:
It is important to understand that carbon monoxide poisoning can only occur if a person is in the presence of a source of the gas.
In fact, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often difficult to recognize because they resemble symptoms of other health problems.
You can suspect carbon monoxide poisoning when:
Therefore, it is very important to know what to do when you have symptoms.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning vary according to the intensity of the exposure.
The main symptoms of a light poisoning are:
Symptoms of a more serious poisoning are:
Symptoms of an severe poisoning are:
A carbon monoxide alarm is a device that can detect the gas.
If you have symptoms of poisoning, the carbon monoxide alarm goes off or not :
Think of your safety before anything.
If you do not have symptoms of poisoning, but your carbon monoxide alarm goes off :
It is necessary to consult a physician to treat carbon monoxide poisoning.
Administration of high levels of oxygen is the standard treatment. If the person’s condition is more serious, the physician may prescribe hyperbaric oxygen therapy. For this treatment, the person is placed in a closed chamber in which they receive pressurised oxygen.
Severe poisoning can cause permanent effects.
The following effects can appear during a period of 2 to 40 days after poisoning, even if treated:
Severe carbon monoxide poisoning can also lead to a coma and death within minutes.
Only a carbon monoxide alarm can detect the gas and warn you.
When the alarm goes off, knowing what to do is important. To find out more on this, go to the What To Do When You Have Symptoms or a Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off section.
If you wish to get an alarm, purchasing advice can be found in the Choosing Your CO Detectors section of the ministère de la Sécurité publique website.
To properly protect yourself, take precautions to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Everyone is at risk of being poisoned by carbon monoxide. However, the risk is higher for the following:
Pregnant women and their fetuses. Carbon monoxide poisoning increases the risk of fetal death and developmental disorder
In Quebec, carbon monoxide poisoning is a reportable disease.
Cases of carbon monoxide poisoning must be reported to public health authorities by a physician or laboratory.
Last update: December 8, 2017 10:20 AM
The information on this website by no means replaces the advice of a health professional. If you have questions regarding your health, contact Info-Santé 811 or see a health professional.