Every person can be killed and injured by carbon monoxide; however, some parts of the population are sensitive to low levels even well below 10% COHb, which means 10% of your oxygen carrying sites in a person’s blood are taken up by CO. The poisoning effects of CO are not as simple as removing 10% of the blood because 10% COHb also interferes with oxygen transport to a much greater extent. It also affects myoglobin and certain enzymes such as P450 cytochrome oxidase. There are many complex interactions that go on in CO poisoning including damage to the hormones that is why heavy female smokers often develop some masculine features and a low husky voice. Smoking raises COHb in a person’s blood because it has carbon monoxide in the smoke. Even passive smokers can be affected over time and the EPA Air Quality Criteria for CO elaborates on these very low level cumulative effects.
The unborn child can be affected at very low levels because their hemoglobin will concentrate CO and remove it from the mother’s blood. Thus the mother’s blood test can be wrong and the unborn, exposed child remains undiagnosed and untreated. Don’t let this happen to your child. It most likely
Other symptoms difficult to diagnose are flu-like symptoms, for example: fatigue, nausea, headaches, dizzy spells, confusion, and irritability because they can be caused by many things. CO is known as the great imitator. It can show itself in many forms for example: one person will be giddy, another irritable and the next will have a severe headache when three people are exposed to the same amount of CO one can experience three different symptoms. Only some symptoms are similar to the flu. Many other symptoms are discussed by Michael C. Dolan, M.D. in Journal of the Canadian Medical Association Journal Vol. 133, September I, 1985 and the Annals of Emergency Medicine 16.7 July 1987 pages 782-787.
The brain uses a great deal of blood and may be one of the first organs to experience damage in the event of CO poisoning but many other organs can be damaged as well. Platt and Grace have ranked CO poisoning with syphilis, tuberculosis and subdural hematoma in its ability to look like a wide variety of systemic diseases.