What are the medical effects of carbon monoxide and how do I recognize them?

Carbon monoxide inhibits the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to body tissues including vital organs such as the heart and brain. CO toxicity levels are usually expressed in airborne concentration levels (PPM) and duration of exposure. Expressed in this way, symptoms of exposure can be stated as follows:


PPM
CO Time
Symptoms
35 PPM8 hoursMaximum exposure allowed by OSHA in the workplace over an eight hour period.
200 PPM2 to 3 hoursMild headache, fatigue, nausea and dizziness.
400 PPM1 to 2 hoursSerious headache-other symptoms intensify. Life threatening after 3 hours.
800 PPM45 minutesDizziness, nausea and convulsions. Unconscious within 2 hours. Death within 2 to 3 hours.
1,600 PPM20 minutesHeadache, dizziness and nausea. Death within 1 hour.
3,200 PPM5 to 10 minutesHeadache, dizziness and nausea. Death within 1 hour.
6,400 PPM1 to 2 minutesHeadache, dizziness and nausea. Death within 25 to 30 minutes.
12,800 PPM1 to 3 minutesDeath


As can be seen from the above information, the symptoms vary widely based on exposure level, duration and the general health and age on an individual. Also note the one recurrent theme that is most significant in the recognition of carbon monoxide poisoning- headache, dizziness and nausea. These "flu like" symptoms are often mistaken for a real case of the flu and can result in delayed or misdiagnosed treatment. When experienced in conjunction with the sounding of a carbon monoxide alarm these symptoms are the best indicator that a potentially serious buildup of carbon monoxide exists. This comment will be returned to later.

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1. Why is carbon monoxide so dangerous?
2. What is carbon monoxide (CO) and why do I need a carbon monoxide detector?
3. What are the medical effects of carbon monoxide and how do I recognize them?
4. How many carbon monoxide detectors should I have and where should I place them?
5. What should I do when my carbon monoxide detector goes off?