Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

When on the trail, you need to be aware of the dangers associated with carbon monoxide poisoning. As mentioned below, carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas. There are many news articles about carbon monoxide poisoning, but this article shows how a boy died while being left in a vehicle (to stay warm) that was stuck. While the adults were trying to free the stuck vehicle, one boy succombed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Do not run your engine at night to stay warm if you plan on sleeping in your vehicle unless the vehicle is properly ventilated.
  • If the exhaust pipe is blocked in any way such as being under waters, jammed with mud or dirt or has another obstruction, you run the risk of carbon monoxide seeping into the vehicle.
  • If you drive with the top off, back window out or have a leak in your exhaust, you run the risk of getting carbon monoxide in your vehicle.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death.

Where is CO found?

CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by cars and trucks, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, and gas ranges and heating systems. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned by breathing it.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. High levels of CO inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death. Unless suspected, CO poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.

How does CO poisoning work?

Red blood cells pick up CO quicker than they pick up oxygen. If there is a lot of CO in the air, the body may replace oxygen in blood with CO. This blocks oxygen from getting into the body, which can damage tissues and result in death. CO can also combine with proteins in tissues, destroying the tissues and causing injury and death.