When a person breathes in carbon monoxide, it is absorbed by hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in the blood. "Carboxy hemoglobin" is then formed, replacing oxygen, preventing its release in the body and eventually causing suffocation.
Mild Exposure: Flu-like symptoms including slight headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
Medium Exposure: Severe headache, drowsiness, confusion and a fast heart rate. Prolonged exposure to medium levels of carbon monoxide (CO) can result in death.
Extreme Exposure: Loss of consciousness, convulsions, heart and lung failure, possible brain damage and death.
While everyone is at risk for CO poisoning, unborn babies, infants and young children, senior citizens and people with heart and lung problems are at a higher risk due to their greater oxygen needs.