What are symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) toxicity?

Updated: Sep 18, 2018
  • Author: Guy N Shochat, MD; Chief Editor: Gil Z Shlamovitz, MD, FACEP  more...
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For nonfatal nonintentional non–fire-related exposures, the most common symptom was headache (37%) followed by dizziness (18%) and nausea (17%). [11] However, any of the following symptoms should alert suspicion in the winter months, especially when the patient has a history compatible with CO exposure and when more than one patient in a group or household presents with similar complaints:

  • Malaise, flulike symptoms, fatigue

  • Dyspnea on exertion

  • Chest pain, palpitations

  • Lethargy

  • Confusion

  • Depression

  • Impulsiveness

  • Distractibility

  • Hallucination, confabulation

  • Agitation

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

  • Abdominal pain

  • Headache, drowsiness

  • Dizziness, weakness, confusion

  • Visual disturbance, syncope, seizure

  • Fecal and urinary incontinence

  • Memory and gait disturbances

  • Bizarre neurologic symptoms, coma

Chronic exposure also produces the above symptoms; however, patients with chronic CO exposure may present with loss of dentition, gradual-onset neuropsychiatric symptoms, or, simply, recent impairment of cognitive ability.

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