When you breathe carbon monoxide, it enters your bloodstream through your lungs and attaches to red blood cells. These red blood cells, called hemoglobin, carry oxygen throughout, our body. Carbon monoxide molecules attach to the red blood cells 200 times faster than oxygen does, preventing the flow of oxygen to your heart, brain and vital organs. As carbon monoxide accumulates in your blood stream, your body becomes starved for oxygen.
The early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often mistaken for the flu:
Breathing very high concentrations of carbon monoxide can be lethal in minutes. Breathing low concentrations over time can be lethal or cause permanent heart and brain damage.