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Carbon Monoxide: Invisible, Odorless, and Deadly

December 19, 2018

You can't see it, smell it, or taste it, but carbon monoxide (CO)—a gas released when fuel is burned—can be deadly. 

Wood, oil, gasoline, natural gas, kerosene, and coal all produce CO. In your home, CO can come from your heating system, cooking appliances, gas generators, or vehicles. 

There's little to worry about when appliances are working right and fumes are properly vented. But when they're not, CO levels can get high enough to cause illness and death. 

Know the signs

At low levels, CO poisioning can mimic the flu without the fever. Common symptoms include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness. Unlike the flum everyone exposed to too much CO will show symptoms at the same time. 

At higher levels, CO poisoning can cause confusion, vomiting, a losof consciousness, and even death. 

If you think you might have carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air and immediately call 911. Open windows, turn off appliances or vehicles, and leave the area. Get to an Emergency Department and tell the medical staff you suspect you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.

Take action 

Take these steps to protect yourself and your family:

  • Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector, and check it at least twice a year.
  • Each year have an expert check anything in your home that burns gas, oil, or coal.
  • Make sure all gas appliances are vented properly.
  • Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year.
  • Have a mechanic check your vehicle's exhaust system once a year.
  • Never leave a vehicle running in the garage—even with the garage door open.
  • Never operate a gas-powered generator or pressure washer in your garage, basement, or home. 

Did you know?

In the even of severe carbon monoxide poisoning, hyperbaric oxygen therapy could save your life. Treatment involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber, providing vital oxygen to your brain and heart as carbon monoxide leaves your blood stream. Click here to learn more about hyperbaric oxygen therapy.