How to Identify Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Keep Your House Safe

Graphic of different gas molecules in tubes

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that is odorless and a colorless, and can be deadly if inhaled in large quantities. Because of its undetectable nature, carbon monoxide is known as a “silent killer.” 

Understanding how to identify signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and implementing safety measures in your home are crucial steps to protect yourself and your family. We will guide you through the symptoms of CO poisoning, the sources of carbon monoxide in the home, and practical ways to prevent it.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when CO builds up in your bloodstream, replacing the oxygen in your red blood cells. This deprivation of oxygen leads to serious tissue damage and can be fatal. The symptoms of CO poisoning can be subtle and mistaken for other illnesses like the flu or food poisoning. Here are the most common symptoms to watch for:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness

One key difference between carbon monoxide poisoning and flu is that CO poisoning does not cause a fever. Additionally, if multiple members of a household suddenly fall ill with similar symptoms, it could be a sign of CO exposure, especially if symptoms lessen when they are outside the home.

Common Sources of Carbon Monoxide in the Home

Understanding where CO may come from can help you prevent exposure. Here are several common sources of carbon monoxide in residential settings:

  • Gas furnaces
  • Stoves and ovens
  • Water heaters
  • Fireplaces, both gas and wood-burning
  • Space heaters
  • Blocked chimneys or flues
  • Running a car in an attached garage
  • Portable generators

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Your Home

Graphic of different molecules and beakers for gas

Here are several proactive steps you can take to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

1. Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Place CO detectors on every level of your home, especially near sleeping areas, to ensure that any rise in CO levels can be detected immediately. Make sure to test them monthly and replace batteries at least twice a year.

2. Ensure Proper Ventilation

Make sure that all fuel-burning appliances are well-ventilated. For instance, never use a gas stove or oven to heat your home. Always use the exhaust fans in the kitchen or on your microwave when cooking on a gas stove.

3. Regular Maintenance of Home Appliances

It is important to routinely schedule inspections and maintenance for your heating system, any other gas, oil, or coal-burning appliances and your water heater by a qualified technician. This can help identify potential CO leaks before they become dangerous.

4. Check and Clean Chimneys and Flues

Have your chimney checked and cleaned annually by a professional. This reduces the risk of blockages that could cause CO to build up inside your home.

5. Be Cautious with Generators and Grills

Generators should never be used inside your home or garage, even if doors and windows are open. Generators should always be used at a safe distance from your home. Likewise, never use a charcoal grill indoors.

6. Avoid Running Vehicles in a Closed Garage

Never leave a car idling in a closed garage. Even if the garage door is fully open, the fumes can still build up inside the garage and home and cause harm.

If You Suspect Carbon Monoxide Poisoning What Should You Do? 

If you or someone in your home is showing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, take the following actions immediately:

  • Get Fresh Air: Move everyone outside to fresh air immediately.
  • Call Emergency Services: Dial 911 or your local emergency number right away.
  • Do Not Re-enter the Home: Wait for emergency personnel to arrive and clear your home for re-entry.
  • Seek Medical Attention: Even if symptoms seem mild, it is crucial to get everyone checked by a healthcare professional. They can perform a blood test to check for carbon monoxide in your blood.


Carbon monoxide poisoning is stealthy but preventable. By understanding the sources and symptoms of CO poisoning and taking proactive safety measures, you can protect your family from this invisible danger. 

Regular maintenance of home appliances, proper installation of CO detectors, and awareness of the risks are your best defenses against carbon monoxide poisoning. Stay vigilant, proactive and make sure your home remains a safe environment for all of you and your loved ones.

You might also be interested in: A Beginner’s Guide To Home Electrical Safety And Maintenance

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