How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A carbon monoxide detector.
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Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer because it's a highly toxic gas with no color or odor. It's especially dangerous since it's hard to detect, and even a small amount can be deadly. It's even riskier for young children, pregnant women, and seniors.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include nausea, headaches, light-headedness, delirium, and indigestion. These effects can be tough to accurately diagnose since they overlap heavily with symptoms of common illnesses.

The only way to certifiably detect carbon monoxide in your system is by getting a blood test done at a hospital.

Common Causes

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious issue that kills many people every year. There are many potential sources that can cause harm.

Power Outages

One of the biggest problems with carbon monoxide comes when people are subjected to extended power outages.

When the power goes out for a long period of time, it's often during the winter. Either an ice storm knocks out multiple power lines, or something else interferes with electricity coming into the house. During these periods, many people take matters into their own hands to get the heat back on.

Many homeowners also own a generator to use in emergencies like this. Some people run generators inside a house or garage, which can be very dangerous since burning fuel puts off carbon monoxide as a byproduct.

Many people don't think about this because they're just happy to get the heat and electricity back on, but the resulting carbon monoxide could be seeping into living areas and slowly poisoning them.

If you're in a power outage, be sure to keep the generator outside where it belongs.

hand holding futuristic carbon monoxide detector in front of gas heater


Another common source of carbon monoxide poisoning is a grill. Propane and charcoal grills both release carbon monoxide as a byproduct. When you don't properly ventilate a grill, it could turn into a deadly situation for those around it.

Grills can put off a high amount of carbon monoxide, and if you do not take the proper precautions, it could hurt everyone around. Make sure to keep your grills outside of enclosed areas and definitely out of the house.

Cigarette Smoke

Another very common source of carbon monoxide poisoning is cigarette smoke. Second-hand smoke is one of the leading causes of health problems for those that are around smokers frequently.

If you have a house full of smokers, the smoke can actually cause a serious amount of carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you smoke, it is always best to do so outside where the smoke can be ventilated properly. Cigarette smoke is bad on everything it touches in the house. Do not smoke around children or anyone that does not want to be around it.

Filling a house with cigarette smoke is a sure way to eventually poison someone with carbon monoxide. Be aware of the harmful effects it can bring to others before you do it without their consent.

Signs to Watch For

A common sign of carbon monoxide in your home is condensation on the walls and windows, mostly in the vicinity of a fuel-burning appliance. Another sign is a stale smell in your home, even when it has been cleaned recently.

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

carbon monoxide detector

The best defense against carbon monoxide gas is preventing its spread in your home and other surroundings in the first place. Here are a few ways to prevent the gas from entering your home.

1. Safe Use of Appliances

You should never use portable fireplaces or grills indoors. Also, never use a gas stove or oven to heat your home.

2. Proper Ventilation

Take care not to operate fuel-burning appliances in enclosed surroundings. You should never block the airflow to a fireplace. If you use space heaters, make sure they have sufficient room for ventilation.

3. Vehicle Safety

A running car emits carbon monoxide. In the winter, if you start your car and let it idle so that it warms up, never allow children or other occupants in the car. If there is a direct entry from the garage to your home, make sure it is closed.

Carbon monoxide emitted from the car can quickly fill up the garage and spread to your living space. It is best to take an idling car outside the garage so you do not risk exposing yourself to the gas.

4. Appliance Inspection and Care

If any of your appliances are malfunctioning, immediately stop using them and have them repaired or replaced. Have your heater or furnace, fireplace, and chimney inspected annually by a certified professional. Make sure the vents and chimneys are free from soot and chalk-like deposits.

5. Professional Installation

worker installing carbon monoxide detector

Never install gas stoves or furnaces yourself (unless you are qualified to do so). Improper installation of fuel-burning appliances can have devastating effects.

6. Boating Safety

Boat motors generate large amounts of carbon monoxide. Have your boat regularly inspected and maintained. Clear obstructions from venting and exhaust systems. Inadequate ventilation can cause the boat cabin to fill with carbon monoxide and is the cause of many fatalities.

Keep people away from the exhaust outlet of the boat when the motor is running.

7. Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Using a reliable carbon monoxide detector is the only way you can be aware of carbon monoxide in your home. Install a carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home and make sure you understand how to read your carbon monoxide detector.