Many objects that burn fuel, such as cars, stoves, grills, fireplaces, and furnaces, release fumes that contain carbon monoxide. If carbon monoxide builds up and is inhaled consistently or in large quantities, it can be poisonous. Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the great mimics of the medical world. It shares symptoms with many other conditions and there are few unique symptoms that specifically indicate carbon monoxide poisoning. As such, it can be difficult for doctors to identify.
Carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin and converts it to a molecule called carboxyhemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein responsible for transporting and using oxygen. The symptoms that result from interference with hemoglobin include headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. These symptoms closely resemble the effects of conditions that affect the brain or that cause oxygen deficiency or hypoxia. Very few people think nausea and headaches are due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Even if the effects are widespread, the prevailing assumption tends to be that the flu or food poisoning is the culprit.
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