Tips: How can I detect carbon monoxide poisoning?

Based on the non-specific symptoms, it is generally difficult to detect whether carbon monoxide poisoning has taken place.

The house or apartment owner generally knows when the last check, e.g. of the heating system, was performed by a chimney sweep. If it was some time ago or if your fireplace, gas stove or gas heater are frequently used, you should be very wary of the following symptoms – above all if you find that other family members or your pet are also affected by the same:

  • General malaise
  • Irritation, mental confusion
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cramps
  • In the course of poisoning, lips and cheeks will become very red. This is often followed by unconsciousness. This is frequently then fatal, since the affected person never wakes up from the unconscious state. 

What to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning?

  • If possible: Shut off the device.
  • Immediately leave the room – preferably into an area of fresh air.
  • Call the fire service and ambulance (via the Europe-wide emergency number 112). 

Flu, cold, upset stomach: This is often what people who suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning put it down to

The catch: Carbon monoxide cannot be smelt, tasted, seen or even noticed due to irritation of the respiratory tract. Those effected continue breathing unhindered and notice virtually nothing, apart from non-specific symptoms. Many people think they are coming down with flu or a cold or have eaten something suspect. So they tend not to consult a doctor. But that is precisely what makes it so dangerous: They lie down because they put it down to harmless dizziness and headaches and in the worst case scenario, they never wake up again.  

Long-term effects: Migraines, problems in concentration, cardiac and circulatory disorders

As carbon monoxide poisoning progresses, the skin and lips redden, which is caused by the effect of carbon monoxide on the colouring in the red blood cells, namely haemoglobin. At an advanced stage of poisoning, victims often lose consciousness, which frequently leads to death. Among the long-term consequences are permanent difficulties in concentrating, migraines, cardiac/circulatory disorders or mental illnesses.

Treatment in an oxygen hyperbaric chamber

If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, you should call the emergency doctor as soon as possible. The carbon monoxide content in the blood will halve in the space of four hours of its own accord, but depending on the degree of poisoning, controlled hyperbaric oxygen treatment, HBO for short, in a pressure chamber may be life-saving. This involves patients sitting in a steel chamber while all vital functions are constantly monitored (blood pressure, heart rate, breathing) and breathe in oxygen via a hose, which removes the carbon monoxide in the blood. Within just 20 to 40 minutes, this method can be used to halve the CO content in the blood. Worldwide, there are pressure chamber centres in nearly every country. 

Sources of danger

Carbon monoxide, known as CO for short, is a toxic gas, which cannot be seen, tasted or smelt. It results, among other things, from incomplete combustion processes of fossil fuels. 



Have your chimneys, fireplaces and all other relevant devices such as heating systems checked by a specialist regularly. 


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