What are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning? Here's how to prevent it in your home

Marley Malenfant
Austin American-Statesman

There could be a silent killer in your home that people should be aware of: carbon monoxide.

And it can kill thousands of Americans every year if homes are not properly vetted

Here’s what you should know.

What is carbon monoxide?  

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, practically odorless, and tasteless gas or liquid. According to the, it results from incomplete oxidation of carbon in combustion and burns with a large, violent flame.

What are sources of carbon monoxide? 

According to the EPA, the main sources of carbon monoxide are as follows: 

  • Unvented kerosene and gas space heaters.
  • Leaking chimneys and furnaces.
  • Back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces.
  • Gas stoves.
  • Generators and other gasoline-powered equipment.
  • Automobile exhaust from attached garages.
  • Tobacco smoke.
  • Incomplete oxidation during combustion in gas ranges and unvented gas or kerosene heaters may cause high concentrations of CO in indoor air.
  • Worn or poorly adjusted and maintained combustion devices (e.g., boilers, furnaces) can be significant sources, or if the flue is improperly sized, blocked, disconnected, or is leaking.
  • Auto, truck, or bus exhaust from attached garages, nearby roads, or parking areas can also be a source.

How many people die from carbon monoxide poisoning? 

According to the, hundreds of people die each year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in the U.S., and thousands more are hospitalized. Between 2016 and 2020, Alaska, Nebraska, and West Virginia had the highest death rates from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

U.S. map of states with highest rate of carbon monoxide deaths

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide exposure can lead to flu-like symptoms that disappear once you leave the affected area. In high concentrations, it can be deadly. The acute effects arise from carboxyhemoglobin formation in the blood, which hampers oxygen absorption. Moderate exposure can cause angina, impaired vision, and diminished brain function. At higher levels, carbon monoxide exposure can be fatal.

Other symptoms include: 

  • Impaired vision and coordination.
  • Headaches.
  • Dizziness.
  • Confusion.
  • Nausea.

How can you tell if there is carbon monoxide in your house?

Install carbon monoxide monitors that will alert occupants. If CO detectors are already present, check them monthly to ensure they are functioning properly. If a CO detector goes off in your home, call 911 and go outside for fresh air immediately. Instruct your family on the hazards, signs, and symptoms of CO exposure.

5 tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home?

It’s ideal to be aware of what appliances are used in your home. Gas appliances can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Never use a generator inside your home or garage, even if doors and windows are open.
  • Only use generators outside, more than 20 feet away from your home, doors, and windows.
  • Never run your car or truck inside a garage that is attached to a house, even with the garage door open. Always open the door to a detached garage to let in fresh air when you run a car or truck inside.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal - red, gray, black, or white - gives off CO.
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors. Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.