It’s a deadly gas that you can’t see or smell  — it’s carbon monoxide, and at high levels it can kill you within minutes. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of carbon monoxide produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can result. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more die from carbon monoxide produced by idling cars.

Signs and Symptoms

There are signs and symptoms that should raise a red flag that you may be affected by carbon monoxide:

At Moderate levels, carbon monoxide can cause

  • Severe headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Mental Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Fainting

At low levels, the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are more mild, but over time can have longer-term effects on your health. Exposure at moderate levels over a long period of time can cause death. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think that carbon monoxide poisoning could be the cause. If you experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning:

  • GET FRESH AIR IMMEDIATELY. Open your doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
  • HAVE SOMEONE TAKE YOU TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM  and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning. You should not drive yourself to the hospital. If CO poisoning has occurred, it can often be diagnosed by a blood test done soon after exposure. 
  • Be prepared to answer the following questions for the doctor:
    Do your symptoms occur only in the house?
    Do they disappear or decrease when you leave home and reappear when you return?
    Is anyone else in your household complaining of similar symptoms?
    Did everyone’s symptoms appear about the same time? 
    Are you using any fuel-burning appliances in the home?
    Has anyone inspected your appliances lately?
    Are you certain they are working properly?

Keeping you and your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely important. Follow the tips below:

  • Have your fuel-burning appliances –including oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves — inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season. Make certain that the flues and chimneys are connected, in good condition, and not blocked.
  • Choose appliances that vent their fumes to the outside whenever possible, have them properly installed, and maintain them according to manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Read and follow all of the instructions on fuel-burning device. If you cannot avoid using an unvented gas or kerosene space heater, carefully follow the cautions that come with the devices. Use the proper fuel and keep doors to the rest of the house open. Crack a window to ensure enough air for ventilation and proper fuel-burning.
  • Never idle your car in the garage — even if the garage door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up very quickly in the garage and living area of your home.
  • Do not use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time, or a charcoal grill indoors.
  • Don’t sleep in a room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
  • Don’t   use gasoline-powered engines (mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines or generators) in enclosed spaces.

If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, DON’T IGNORE THEM. Acting immediately could save your life.