What Are the Effects of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2019
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Carbon monoxide is a gas with no odor or color that is often emitted from vehicles and other gas-powered devices, such as gas grills or heaters. It can be poisonous if inhaled in large amounts because once the gas is in the body, it can prevent the body from being able to properly absorb oxygen and may result in potentially fatal damage to the body‘s tissues. Since the gas has no color, taste, or smell, knowing the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning may ensure a person knows when to seek medical attention to prevent any fatal complications.

One of the most common effects of carbon monoxide poisoning that generally occurs at the onset is a headache. Headaches that are a result of carbon monoxide exposure tend to be slightly dull, rather than sudden and severe. The dull headache may also be accompanied by feelings of dizziness or weakness. Since the beginning stage symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning tend to be similar to a variety of other conditions, a person may not be able to distinguish the cause of these symptoms unless they are accompanied by other symptoms associated with carbon monoxide exposure.

As the poisonous gas makes its way into a person’s body tissues, other symptoms will generally occur. Nausea and vomiting tend to be common signs of dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide in the body. A person may also experience pain in his or her chest, as well as feelings of disorientation.


One of the most serious effects of carbon monoxide poisoning is loss of consciousness. A person does not generally lose consciousness when initially exposed to carbon monoxide. This symptom tends to only occur after prolonged exposure to the gas. Loss of consciousness is usually a sign that the body’s tissues are becoming damaged from the carbon monoxide, depriving the body of oxygen. If a person becomes unconscious after carbon monoxide exposure, the condition can result in death if emergency medical attention is not provided.

The people who tend to be at the highest risk of developing the most dangerous effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are those who are not aware of the beginning stage symptoms of the condition. If a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or asleep at the time of exposure, the beginning symptoms may not be enough to wake the person up. Fatal cases of carbon monoxide poisoning tend to occur in these instances, and infants and elderly people are often at the highest risk of death.


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