Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is produced when fuel is not completely burned. If carbon monoxide builds up in a poorly ventilated area, it can replace oxygen in the blood.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause symptoms such as dizziness, weakness, headache, confusion, chest pain, nausea, and vomiting in both people and pets. It can be fatal if someone who has been exposed doesn’t leave the area and breathe fresh air.
The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is higher in the winter because people use their home heating systems, heating appliances, and generators more often. Here are some ways to keep your family safe.
Be Careful With Heating Equipment
Have your furnace, water heater, and any other appliances that burn oil, gas, wood or coal inspected and serviced by a professional each year. Make sure you know how to change heating filters and do so as the manufacturer recommends. If you detect a problem with a heating appliance, have it inspected as soon as possible.
If you have a fireplace, keep the flue clear and have the chimney cleaned regularly. If you have a wood or coal stove, make sure it’s properly vented before you use it to heat your home.
If a storm brings a significant amount of snow to your area, check the vents outside your home. If they’re blocked, clear them so carbon monoxide can’t build up inside your house.
Use Appliances Safely
If you have a grill, hibachi, or portable camping stove, only use it outside, away from any open windows or doors. If the power goes out, don’t use a gas-powered stove or grill, or any other appliance that isn’t designed to be used indoors to heat your home.
Don’t run a generator inside your house or garage. Set it up outside, at least 20 feet away from your home, to protect your family from dangerous fumes.
Warm Up Your Car Outdoors
In the winter, many people like to warm up their vehicles before leaving home. If you decide to let your car run before you leave, don’t warm it up in the garage, even if the door is open. Carbon monoxide can build up inside and endanger you and other members of your family. Instead, move the car to the driveway and let it warm up there, with the garage door closed.
Check Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors
If you have carbon monoxide detectors in your home, check the batteries twice a year and replace them as necessary. If you don’t already have carbon monoxide detectors, install one on each floor.
If a detector goes off, evacuate the house and call 911. If a member of your family experiences symptoms of possible carbon monoxide poisoning, get everyone outside and call for help.