Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is harmful. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell, carbon monoxide can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. 

About carbon monoxide

When carbon monoxide enters the body, it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues and organs. All people are at risk of having carbon monoxide poisoning. Infants, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems are more sensitive to its harmful effects.

 

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If you have been exposed to carbon monoxide, get fresh air immediately and call 911.

Carbon monoxide information

What to do if exposed

If you think you are experiencing symptoms (see below) of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Get fresh air immediately, you could lose consciousness and die if you stay in the home
  • Leave your home and call 911 to report your symptoms and the possibility of carbon monoxide exposure
  • If you do not have a cell phone, ask a neighbor if you can use their phone
  • Contact a doctor immediately or go to the emergency room for a proper diagnosis, quick medical attention is important if you are experiencing any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Tell your doctor that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning is causing your symptoms.
  • Make sure a qualified service person checks the appliances for proper operation before using them again.
Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable. Make sure that you and your family are safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Take action

  • Install a carbon monoxide detector near all sleeping areas in your home. Replace the battery regularly.
  • If the detector alarm sounds, leave your home immediately and call 9-1-1.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous

Take precautions

  • Never use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline or charcoal burning device inside your home, basement, garage, near a window or under a tent.
  • Never use a gas cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Never run a car or truck inside a garage even if the door is left open.
  • Make sure that stove pipes and other types of vents are tightly joined and not cracked or rusty.

Check sources of carbon monoxide

Any fuel burning appliance, vehicle, tool or other device can produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide gas. Here are some examples of carbon monoxide-producing items commonly used around the home:

  • Gas (propane) furnaces and heaters
  • Gas water heaters
  • Fireplaces and woodstoves
  • Gas stoves
  • Gas dryer
  • Charcoal grills
  • Lawnmowers, snow blowers, and other yard equipment
  • Automobiles
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

The initial symptoms of low to moderate carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever): 

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

High level carbon monoxide poisoning has more severe symptoms:

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death

The amount of carbon monoxide you’re exposed to influences the recovery and the damage done. If you or your family experience any of the above symptoms and believe you may have been exposed to carbon monoxide, you should leave the house immediately and seek urgent medical advice from your doctor.

Contacts
DHW Indoor Environment Program