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What is carbon monoxide and why is it dangerous?

Carbon monoxide is formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels such as wood, coal, propane and natural gas. Carbon monoxide can be toxic when inhaled. As it enters the bloodstream, it can prevent your body from effectively absorbing oxygen, resulting in tissue damage and eventual death.

According to the CDC, more than 20,000 people visit the emergency room each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning. While no one is immune to the effects of this toxic gas, certain people, such as infants, the elderly and those with heart or respiratory conditions, are more sensitive to the effects of CO poisoning.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Because of the nature of the symptoms of CO poisoning, many people often mistake their symptoms for signs of the flu. However, unlike the flu, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning will clear up when you leave the area of the CO leak.

Carbon monoxide (CO) may be colorless and odorless, but it is far from harmless. Unfortunately, the toxic gas is virtually undetectable without a carbon monoxide alarm. Many people unknowingly come into contact with potentially dangerous levels of CO every day. Below, learn what factors in your home may expose you to carbon monoxide, as well as the best ways to protect yourself from it.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Because of the nature of the symptoms of CO poisoning, many people often mistake their symptoms for signs of the flu. However, unlike the flu, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning will clear up when you leave the area of the CO leak.

The EPA states that some of the most common symptoms of CO poisoning are:

  • Fatigue in otherwise healthy people
  • Chest pain in people with heart conditions
  • Angina
  • Impaired vision and coordination
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Nausea
  • Other flu-like symptoms

At higher concentrations, CO poisoning can make you pass out and can even be fatal.