Carbon monoxide or CO is a colorless and odorless gas. CO poisoning can occur when a fuel-burning appliance or machine, such as a furnace, heater, or generator, is not working or vented properly. Breathing in CO at high levels can be fatal. The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever) and include:
- Shortness of breath
If you suspect that you are experiencing CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Leave the home and call for assistance from a neighbor’s home. You could lose consciousness and die from CO poisoning if you stay in the home.
Get medical attention immediately and inform medical staff that CO poisoning is suspected. Call the Fire Department to determine when it is safe to reenter the home.
Below are a few points to help eliminate introducing CO into your home:
- Install and maintain CO alarms inside your home to provide early warning of carbon monoxide.
- CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home.
- Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
- CO alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and the sound of CO alarms.
- Test CO alarms at least once a month.
- Make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow and other debris.
- Remove vehicles from the garage immediately after starting.
- Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from all doors, windows and vents.
Visit the U.S. Fire Administration's website to learn more about the dangers of carbon monoxide.