Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas produced when vehicles, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, portable generators or furnaces burn fuel. People and animals are at risk when carbon monoxide builds in enclosed spaces. Fatal levels of carbon monoxide can be produced in minutes, even when doors and windows are open.

  • Do not run a car in a garage that is attached to a house. This puts you at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning even with the garage door open.
  • Do not use portable, flameless, chemical heaters indoors.
  • Never use a gas oven to heat your home.
  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement, garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door or vent.
  • Have your chimney checked and cleaned every year.
  • Make sure your fireplace damper is open before lighting a fire and well after the fire is extinguished.
  • Install a battery-operated or battery backup carbon monoxide detector in the hallway near each separate sleeping area in your home.
  • Check or replace the battery for each carbon monoxide detector when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
  • Replace carbon monoxide detectors every five years.

Everyone is at risk. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows infants, the elderly, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia or breathing problems as more prone to illness or death from carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptom severity varies depending on the level of carbon monoxide and duration of exposure. People often mistake mild symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning for the flu.

Low to moderate carbon monoxide poisoning is characterized by:

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

High-level carbon monoxide poisoning results in:

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death.

If you experience any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, go outside to get fresh air immediately.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that you should never ignore a carbon monoxide alarm. Instead, follow these steps:

  • Move outside to get fresh air.
  • Call emergency services, fire department or 9-1-1.
  • Do a head count to check for everyone.
  • Do not reenter the premises until emergency responders have given you permission.

Winter is a prime time for carbon monoxide poisoning because people turn on their heating systems and often warm their cars in garages. As the weather turns colder, it’s important to take extra precautions to keep your family safe.