Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless, colorless gas that is created when fuels, such as gasoline, wood, natural gas, coal, propane, and oil, burn incompletely. Vehicles and generators can also produce dangerous levels of CO. Some signs that indicate the presence of carbon monoxide in your home include stuffy, stale, or smelly air, very high humidity, and soot coming from a fireplace or heating system.
What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
The symptoms of CO poisoning are often confused with those of the flu, and the highest incidence of poisoning occurs during the flu season.
Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, unclear thinking, shortness of breath, weakness, vision problems, and loss of muscle control. High concentrations of carbon monoxide can lead to unconsciousness, brain damage, or death. However, a victim may not experience ANY of these symptoms, or only one or a few symptoms. You should suspect the presence of carbon monoxide if symptoms tend to disappear when you leave home.
What should you do if you suspect the presence of CO in your home?
- Open the windows and doors and immediately leave the house
- Call your fuel supplier, licensed heating contractor, or HG&E (for natural gas customers) immediately for an emergency inspection
- If carbon monoxide is detected, seek medical attention immediately
How can you reduce the risk of CO poisoning in the home?
- Install CO alarms that are listed by an independent testing laboratory inside your home to provide early warning of accumulating CO. CO alarms should be tested monthly.
- “Tune up” your heating system using a licensed heating contractor, HG&E (for natural gas customers), or your fuel supplier, preferably before the heating season begins.
- Check your chimney or vent pipes for blockage. If a blockage exists, contact a professional chimney sweep immediately.
- Make sure your home is adequately ventilated, particularly if you have insulated your home, had major renovations done, or have enclosed your heating system.
- Clear snow and ice from around appliances and equipment vents.
- Do not idle vehicles or run generators inside garages or indoors.