You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in 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 CO produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result.
Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more die from CO produced by idling cars. Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially susceptible.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Sudden flu-like illness
- Dizziness, headaches, sleepiness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fluttering or throbbing heart beat
- Cherry-red lips, unusually pale complexion
If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Get the victim out of the house and into fresh air immediately.
- Call 911 or emergency medical help at once.
- Get everyone else out of the house.
- Open the windows.
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Be alert for the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms and replace every five years.
- Never operate internal combustion engines indoors.
- Never use a charcoal grill indoors.
- Have all fuel-burning appliances, flues, vents and chimneys checked regularly.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarms
Make sure your home is equipped with working CO alarms.
- For added safety, consider installing a CO alarm in each bedroom.
- In two-story homes, install at least one CO alarm on each level.
- If your home has a basement, install a CO alarm at the top of the basement stairs.
- Change the batteries in CO alarms at the beginning of winter and then every six months.
- Replace CO alarms older than five years.