Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: The Silent Killer

According to the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), 1,500 people die each year due to accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and an additional 10,000 seek medical attention. Because CO poisoning occurs mostly in winter months, it is often mistaken for the flu and ignored, leading to serious illness and even death.

The following information can educate the public about CO, CO poisoning and what they can do to prevent a tragedy from occurring.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and toxic gas produced during combustion of fuel. Some examples of carbon monoxide producing devices are:

  • Fuel furnaces
  • Gas water heaters
  • Fireplaces and woodstoves
  • Gas stoves
  • Space heaters
  • Charcoal grills
  • Automobiles

CO poisoning can result in one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Mild headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Convulsions
  • Shallow breathing

Actions to take to lessen the chance of exposure to CO:

  • Purchase and install CO detectors.
  • Replace gas appliances with electric ones.
  • Check gas burners and chimney flues annually.
  • Conduct regularly scheduled cleanings of your water heaters, furnaces, ovens, range tops and space heaters.
  • Avoid idling or starting vehicles in unventilated garages.
  • Do not let children play in idling cars.


About the Norman Knight Hyperbaric Medicine Center

Offers three specially outfitted and state-of-the-art hyperbaric chambers that can safely and effectively treat all types of patients. Treatment is provided by our team of physicians and nurses who have trained in hyperbaric medicine at American Medical Association/Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society-approved courses.
Consultation and case management services are available on a 24-hour basis to treat victims of carbon monoxide poisoning, smoke inhalation, gas embolisms, scuba diving injuries, and life-threatening infections.

Opened in 1995 as the First HBO Center in Massachusetts.

(Information provided by the National Institutes of Health)