How Does Carbon Monoxide Kill?

Inhalation of carbon monoxide, the colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced during combustion, can easily lead to fatal carbon monoxide poisoning. Because carbon monoxide cannot be detected and the symptoms start mild, mimic the flu and get progressively worse, by the time someone realizes there is a problem, it may be too late. Carbon monoxide gas can be produced with certain types of heaters, motors, non-ventilated fireplaces and other heating appliances that are not in good repair.

Carbon Monoxide Is Inhaled

Carbon Monoxide Compromises Oxygen Delivery

Breathing in just a small concentration of carbon monoxide can cause half of the major blood element called hemoglobin to covert to a synthetic form called carboxyhemoglobin. This synthetic form of hemoglobin takes the place of normal hemoglobin, which binds with and delivers oxygen through the body. This substitute prevents delivery of oxygen throughout the body, and causes the body's myoglobin, which transports oxygen through the muscle and helps with cell respiration, to be compromised.

Carbon Monoxide Shuts Down the Body

When the body systems do not get the oxygen it needs, they will stop working. The brain cannot work without sufficient oxygen, which is why the symptoms start with headaches and disorientation. Victims will begin to get flu-like symptoms such as headaches, tiredness, dizziness and body aches. Going to bed can cause the symptoms and toxicity to worsen. Eventually, exposure to carbon monoxide will affect the central nervous system and the heart and cause death. The rate at which carbon monoxide poisoning will affect the victim depends on the concentration of the poisonous gas in the air and how airtight the environment is.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Can Be Treated

When discovered in time, oxygen treatments can help the victim recover, though recovery is slow and permanent issues can remain. Simply leaving the environment will not reverse the damage. Even after it seems a person has recovered, he can have a relapse and die from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoniong

The best way to prevent death by carbon monoxide poisoning is to eliminate chances of breathing the deadly gas. Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home and do not over-insulate the house in winter. Allow for some degree of ventilation. Also, be careful about using motor-based appliances and fuel-burning heaters within the home.