Weirdly Interesting Creepy Things You Didn't Know About Carbon Monoxide Poisoning  

Steve Wright
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Dying from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is not a fun way to go, especially if it happens over time. Like any good poison, CO kills slowly and agonizingly in small doses and quickly in high doses. Unlike most poisons, carbon monoxide usually kills unexpectedly and accidentally.

This is not textbook jilted-lover-style killing. Victims typically have no idea what CO poisoning is like and often confuse it for sickness such as the flu. Even in extreme cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, there's usually a logical and simple, but incorrect, diagnosis for symptoms. 

If you've ever wondered what carbon monoxide poisoning is like or if you'd like to know how to prevent it from happening to you, this list of creepy things will provide answers.

It Feels Like the Flu


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Carbon monoxide poisoning is tricky to detect because it shares numerous symptoms with the common flu. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headaches and nausea, followed by tiredness and shortness of breath. Even a doctor will be unlikely to immediately diagnose carbon monoxide poisoning, given the symptoms that present.

Humans Can't Detect It Without Assistance


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Photo: Judy **/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
One reason carbon monoxide is so lethal is humans can't detect it. The gas is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. That means you could be sitting in a house leaking CO and have no idea. The only way to be sure you're safe is a carbon monoxide detector.

CO Poisoning Kills More Than 400 Americans Each Year


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Carbon monoxide has earned its reputation as a silent killer. Each year, more than 400 Americans are killed by CO leaks from fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces. If you add in the number killed by fumes associated with charcoal or cars left running in garages, the death toll pushes 500. Be smart - don't barbecue indoors!

Carbon Monoxide Works By Replacing The Oxygen In Blood


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Photo: Polygon Medical Animation/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The way carbon monoxide kills its victims is quite simple. When a person breathes in normally, their lungs pump oxygen into the blood stream where its moved to the organs, such as the brain, heart, kidneys, etc. However, when carbon monoxide is breathed in in large quantities, that gas gets into the blood in place of the oxygen.

The body then, just as it did with oxygen, circulates the carbon monoxide rich blood to the organs. But unlike oxygen, carbon monoxide does not keep a person's organs, blood, and body alive, so it starts to do serious damage. The organs will begin to stop working, though before they do that, your body is going to give off a few vital, but often overlooked, warning signs.