What You Need To Know: Carbon Monoxide

If you haven’t heard of carbon monoxide and its dangers, it’s time to learn. While carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t extremely common, its sources are. Make sure you know the facts so you can keep yourself and your family safe from a carbon monoxide leak in your home.

Here are the basics you should know about carbon monoxide and carbon monoxide poisoning:

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that’s notoriously difficult to detect. Like natural gas, it doesn’t have an odor, color, or taste. But unlike natural gas, we can’t add scent to it to make it easier to tell when it’s in the air, making it even more dangerous.

How can it get into my home?

Carbon monoxide can enter the air in your home from a number of places. The biggest culprit is a leaky furnace. Get your furnace checked every year before winter sets in to make sure it’s not in danger of leaking. You want to make sure the only thing coming through your vents in the winter is heat.

But carbon monoxide can also come from old refrigerators (if they run on propane), gas stoves, gas ovens, and water heaters. Anything that burns carbon-based fuels could potentially release carbon monoxide, which is created when those fuels don’t burn completely.

Car exhaust is another common source, so make sure you never run the car when the garage door is closed, and give your garage a good airing out now and then so it doesn’t build up.

What are the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning?

If there’s enough carbon monoxide to affect the people in your home, there will be a number of symptoms. But they aren’t symptoms that are specific to carbon monoxide poisoning, so they are sometimes mistaken for flu symptoms.

Symptoms of poisoning include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, weakness, vomiting, confusion, headache, and chest pain. Remember that the flu is usually accompanied by a fever, but carbon monoxide poisoning is not.

If everyone in your home has similar symptoms, and if they improve upon exposure to fresh air, carbon monoxide may be the culprit. Pets displaying unusual behavior at the same time family members are sick is also a red flag.

How do I prevent a carbon monoxide leak?

Besides the furnace and heating systems, have all fuel-burning appliances in your home checked and serviced every year.

One of the biggest and most important precautions is to have an alarm. While smoke alarms have thankfully become a fixture in almost every home, carbon monoxide detectors aren’t to that point yet. But they should be.

Carbon monoxide alarms are easy to find and relatively inexpensive, so install at least one in your home. Make sure it’s battery operated or has a back-up battery. Then test it and replace the batteries regularly just as you would with your smoke alarm.

For more information on how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, check out the CDC’s website.

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