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Carbon Monoxide

What is carbon monoxide?
How does carbon monoxide poisoning occur?
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
How can carbon monoxide poisoning be prevented?
If I’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
What treatments are available for carbon monoxide poisoning?
How many cases of carbon monoxide poisoning have been reported in Kentucky?
Where can I get more information on carbon monoxide poisoning?


What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas and is sometimes referred to as the silent killer. It is produced by burning any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal. If a person becomes exposed to carbon monoxide for too long a period of time, carbon monoxide poisoning can occur, which can be potentially fatal. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can become deadly in just a few minutes.

How does carbon monoxide poisoning occur?
Malfunctioning appliances, such as furnaces, stoves, ovens and water heaters that operate by burning fossil fuels such as natural or propane gas, are potential causes of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Other causes include vehicle exhaust, cigarette smoke, blocked chimney flues, gas water heaters, kerosene space heaters, charcoal grills, propane stoves and propane-fueled machinery, and gas powered tools.

A majority of carbon monoxide poisonings occur during the fall and winter months. Power outages in colder months can also lead to a high number of carbon monoxide poisonings, as people struggle to find ways to heat their homes.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
The symptoms of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning include:

Those exposed to a low, but still harmful, amount of carbon monoxide might feel sick while at home, but feel much better when out in fresh air. The sickness returns shortly after the person gets home.

The symptoms of medium exposure to carbon monoxide include:

Extreme exposure to carbon monoxide can result in:

How can carbon monoxide poisoning be prevented?Lawn mower
The most effective way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is with a carbon monoxide monitor, which can be purchased from local hardware stores. If your carbon monoxide monitor indicates a dangerous level of carbon monoxide in your home, leave immediately and call 911.

Other prevention methods:

If I’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
The initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can occur immediately after exposure.

What treatments are available for carbon monoxide poisoning?
The treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning is high-dose oxygen, usually using a facemask attached to an oxygen reserve bag.

How many cases of carbon monoxide poisoning have been reported in Kentucky?
In 2010, 271 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning were reported in the state of Kentucky. Of those cases, 34 were reported in Northern Kentucky.  

Where can I get more information on carbon monoxide poisoning?
For more information online, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or call the Health Department at 859.341.4264.

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Kentucky Poison Control Center