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Symptoms and Effects of Carbon Monoxide

Recognizing early warning signs of CO poisoning is sometimes difficult because early symptoms of CO exposure (headache, dizziness, nausea) are nonspecific and may be mistaken for symptoms of other illnesses such as colds, flu or food poisoning.

Did you know?

The severity of symptoms of CO exposure is influenced by three main factors:

  • the concentration of CO in the environment,
  • how long the exposure lasts, and
  • work load and breathing rate.

Generally, symptoms are similar to the flu without a fever.

CWoman holding her headommon Mild Exposure Symptoms

  • Slight headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue (flu-like symptoms)

Common Medium Exposure Symptoms

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Fast heart rate
  • Throbbing headache

Common Extreme Exposure Symptoms

  • Convulsions
  • Unconsciousness
  • Heart and lung failure
  • Brain damage
  • Death

Health Effects of Carbon Monoxide

 Concentration (PPM) Concentration (%) Exposure time and symptoms
9
0.0009
Maximum allowed ambient by EPA
35
0.0035
Maximum for 8 hour exposure
200
0.02
Headache in 2 to 3 hours
400
0.04
Life threatening after 3 hours
800
0.08
Dizziness, nausea, convulsion in 45 minutes
1600
0.16
Headache, dizziness, nausea in 20 minutes
3200
0.32
Headache, dizziness, nausea in 10 minutes 
6400
0.64
 Headache, dizziness, nausea in 2 minutes
12800
1.28
Death in 1 to 3 minutes

Learn more facts about carbon monoxide and how you can protect yourself from CO poisoning.



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