Understanding Carbon Monoxide Symptoms And Diagnosing Them

Carbon monoxide poisoning is potentially lethal. It is also known as the silent killer, because carbon monoxide as a gas does not have any smell, color or taste. Furthermore, because it doesn't kill very quickly - unless there are very high levels of carbon monoxide - people often go through life slowly getting poisoned to death. In order to prevent this, you must understand the most frequent carbon monoxide symptoms. It is also important to understand this as it will help diagnose the issue.

What Are Carbon Monoxide Symptoms?

The main problem with this type of poisoning is that the symptoms are very similar to those of many other conditions, including flu or food poisoning. Worryingly, a common source of carbon monoxide is the bedroom or other upstairs room, which is where people retreat if they suspect they have the flu or another illness. Usually, carbon monoxide symptoms gradually start to appear. Because of this, neither an individual patient nor a medical professional may be aware of the fact that it is actually poisoning. Another factor is found in just how severe the poisoning itself is. This depends, for instance, on the levels of the gas present in the home or office of the affected person.

Also, the carbon monoxide symptoms will vary depending on how long you have already been exposed to the gas. The age of the patient is also an important factor. The very young, the elderly, and fetuses are at particularly high risk of developing severe levels of poisoning. Naturally, the general state of health is also an important factor, as is the amount of physical activity. When it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning, the more physical activity that is taken part in, the more effects the poisoning will have.

There are a number of very common symptoms that you may want to know about. Some 90 percent of people develop a headache, which is one of the primary carbon monoxide symptoms. Around half of those affected also have vomiting, nausea and vertigo. Some 30 percent have altering states of consciousness, although this is usually a sign of more severe poisoning, and around 20 percent suffer from general weakness.

Symptoms also vary greatly depending on whether the patient is an adult, child or infant. General symptoms for an adult include fatigue, dizziness and weakness, but infants tend to just not feel well. In terms of neurological carbon monoxide symptoms, adults often have a headache, feel drowsy and disorientated an may have fits. Children often have uncoordinated movements, fits, drowsiness and headaches. Most also start to develop stomach problems. In adults, this manifests as nausea, stomach pain and vomiting. In children, the same symptoms occur, but also often diarrhea and even anorexia. In infants, a loss of appetite may be observed. Lastly, there are symptoms relating to the heart.

Adults often have wheeziness and chest pain, as well as hyperventilation and palpitations. Children only experience hyperventilation. This clearly demonstrates how easy it is to miss or mistake symptoms, and it also shows that it is particularly hard to detect carbon monoxide poisoning in infants, even though they are at a higher risk of dying. 

Carbon Monoxide Symptoms-2

Diagnosing Carbon Monoxide Symptoms

There are generally two ways for people to get poisoned. The first is when they are suddenly exposed to a high level of carbon monoxide. This is known as acute exposure. It is very rare for this to happen without people knowing it, with the exception of those who try to commit suicide by running exhaust fumes into their car, which is still a very popular way of taking your own life. The more common form of carbon monoxide poisoning is chronic exposure, where patients are exposed to low levels of carbon monoxide, but over longer periods of time.

It is relatively easy to diagnose acute exposure. The carbon monoxide symptoms here are far more pronounced. However, the chronic exposure is difficult to diagnose, not in the least because it can so easily mask itself as a different type of illness. It has been known for an entire family to have been found dead from carbon monoxide exposure, only to find that they suspected they all had food poisoning. One important thing to remember is that although carbon monoxide symptoms often mask themselves as other illnesses, they never cause a fever. So, if you feel like you have the flu, but you do not have a raised temperature, you may want to consider carbon monoxide exposure instead.

If you find symptoms come back time and again, particularly if you have been out of an area and then return to it, domestic carbon monoxide poisoning is a likely culprit. There are a few additional clues that medical professionals will look for. For instance, if everybody in the family is affected or if the symptoms seem to get worse whenever an appliance is used (boiler, central heating system, gas cooker, open fire and so on). Also, if people find that they seem to have a seasonal disorder, with their symptoms only occurring during winter months (when they use their heating), that would also be a major red flag. If, on top of that, symptoms improve as soon as the property is left for a period of time, for instance during a vacation, but the symptoms come back as they return to the property, that would be a strong suggestion that carbon monoxide is escaping.

There are a few things that people can do in their property to determine whether carbon monoxide is already escaping. If you experience carbon monoxide symptoms, check whether all your appliances that use gas at any point in your home are still functioning properly and have them all serviced and maintained. This is something you should do once a year. If there are visible black soot marks on the walls around your cooking appliances, or on the burners of a gas fire, this is a sure sign that carbon monoxide is escaping. Also, if you find that your gas flame is yellow rather than blue, there is another significant issue.

Disclaimer: The information provided has been prepared as a guide only and the steps taken are likely to vary for different appliance models. We strongly recommend using a qualified engineer to undertake major repairs and fault finding.


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