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Carbon Monoxide

24-Hour Poison Control Center Hotline

Toll free 1-800-222-1222

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. CO is produced any time a fossil fuel is burned in a furnace, vehicle, generator, grill or elsewhere. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed paces and poison the people and animals in them.

What are the most common sources of carbon monoxide?

  • Gasoline powered engines, such as cars and boats
  • Gas stoves and ovens
  • Charcoal grills
  • Furnaces and water heaters
  • Oil, gas or kerosene heaters
  • Leaking chimneys or fireplaces

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms are similar to those of the flu. Symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness

People who are asleep or drunk can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before they have symptoms, which is why it is very important to have a CO detector in your home.

How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

Take the following steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:

  • Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home.
  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas-burning appliances serviced by a professional each year.
  • Never leave a vehicle running in a garage, even with the garage door open.
  • Make sure your car's tailpipe is clear of snow and other obstructions.
  • Do not run fuel-powered tools or other equipment inside the home or garage, even with the door open.
  • Never burn a charcoal grill or portable gas camp stove indoors or in a garage.
  • Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly.
  • Never use a gas range or oven to heat your home.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year.

How do I use a carbon monoxide detector?

  • Detectors should be installed in the hallway near the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home.
  • Keep and read the instructions included with your detector for the manufacturer's recommendation on battery replacement, alarms, cleaning of the detector, precautions and lifespan of the detector.
  • Check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.

What should I do if I suspect carbon monoxide poisoning?

  • Get into fresh air immediately.
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
  • Go to the doctor right away if anyone has any symptoms of CO inhalation, is pregnant or has heart issues.
  • If you suspect a faulty appliance is letting out large amounts of carbon monoxide, call your local fire department or gas company for assistance in testing the air for CO.
  • Do not re-enter the building until the fire department or gas company says it is safe.

Download a PDF on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning to keep at home.