Carbon monoxide poisoning is breathing in too much carbon monoxide. Inhaled carbon monoxide enters the lungs, where it replaces oxygen in red blood cells and is then carried throughout the body. Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those experienced when there is too little oxygen in the air we breathe.
Symptoms can vary from mild (fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea) to severe (loss of consciousness and death). The exposure levels influence the recovery and the damage done to an individual. A person’s mental abilities can be impaired and there can be permanent brain damage.
Most people who survive CO poisoning recover fully. Studies have found, however, that 10% to 40% of survivors of severe carbon monoxide poisoning may have long-term health problems because of their exposure. Even minor and moderate cases of carbon monoxide poisoning indicate an underlying CO hazard in the patient’s home, work, or recreational environment.