Dr. Barbara Huggins

Boating & Carbon Monoxide Exposure

June 28, 2007


Boating & Carbon Monoxide Exposure -  June 28, 2007It's summer and time to head to the lake for skiing, tubing, swimming, fishing, or just going for a ride in the boat. Don't let this time of fun in the sun turn in to a tragedy for you and your family.

We think of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure or poisoning mainly during the winter months when cooler temperatures outside cause us to turn up the heat in our homes. But, carbon monoxide exposure can also occur during the summer months as well, especially at the lake on boats and in marinas. Carbon monoxide can harm and even kill you inside or outside your boat.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is produced when a carbon-based fuel such as gasoline, propane, charcoal, or oil burns. Carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream through the lungs and reduces the amount of oxygen carried by the blood to your body. The lack of oxygen results in death.

Carbon monoxide is emitted from any boat's exhaust as well as any generator that is used on the boat. Exposure can occur while a boat is idling in the marina, either from your own boat or other boats where the engine is running. Swimming around the boat, hanging onto the back of the boat, and swimming under pontoon boats can also be areas of high exposure to CO.

Symptoms of CO poisoning:

Some of these symptoms may appear as motion sickness, intoxication, or just feeling tired from being in the sun. The US Coast Guard recommends treating seasickness as possible CO poisoning. Get the person into fresh air immediately and seek medical attention unless you are sure it is not CO.

Prevent CO exposure/poisoning while boating:

Protect your family and friends while on the lake by always being aware of CO exposure.

Helpful websites:

NOTICE: Protected health information is subject to electronic disclosure.