Carbon Monoxide Can be a Danger Any Time of Year

By Yasir Saleem, DO 
Department of Family Practice

We all have a lot on our minds these days, but no matter how busy you are it’s still important to be aware of everyday dangers that could turn the season tragic. One of those dangers is carbon monoxide poisoning. A colorless, odorless and tasteless gas, carbon monoxide (CO) is produced by burning gasoline, propane, wood, charcoal and other fuels. Carbon monoxide can build to dangerous levels when heating systems and other appliances malfunction or are not ventilated properly. Breathing in too much carbon monoxide can quickly lead to loss of consciousness and death.

The signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Dull headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness

Wintertime, when furnaces are used constantly to heat homes and stoves are used often to prepare meals, can be a particularly dangerous time for carbon monoxide poisoning. Power outages are another time to be cautious, as the improper use of portable propane heaters can cause hazardous amounts of carbon monoxide in the home. Fortunately, taking some simple precautions can greatly reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Here are some tips and recommendations to keep you and your family safe:

Install a carbon monoxide detector
All homes should have a working carbon monoxide detector. A good option is a combined smoke detector/carbon monoxide detector which you can find at hardware stores and other retailers.

Test your batteries
A carbon monoxide detector can’t protect you if the batteries are dead. Your owner’s manual will tell you how often you should test the battery and give a recommended time for replacement.

Have your furnace or boiler checked each season
Regular maintenance of your heating system is an important way to prevent malfunctions that could allow carbon monoxide to leak into your home.

Use Your Vent Hood
When using a gas-burning stove, always turn on the vent hood. This is especially important when cooking for a long period of time. If you live in an older home without a vent hood, consider having one installed.

Don’t run your car in your garage
Each minute it is running, a car engine puts out a large amount of carbon monoxide. The odorless gas can easily seep into your home from the garage and become extremely dangerous. Always move your car out of the garage when the engine is running. If you are using your car’s remote start function remember to open the garage door first.

Don’t use a gas stove to heat your home
Your kitchen stove is designed for cooking, not for heating. It can be dangerous to leave your kitchen stove on for long periods of time, especially overnight. If your furnace goes out, it is better to use a space heater that has built-in safety features designed for indoor use.

Use a portable carbon monoxide detector when traveling
When traveling, consider taking a portable carbon monoxide detector with you. If you are renting a vacation home, ask to make sure a carbon monoxide detector has been installed to protect you. Never assume that a carbon monoxide detector has been installed, especially in foreign countries where laws are different.

If you do detect carbon monoxide in your home, be sure to immediately get everyone (including your pets) outside so they can breathe fresh air. Afterward, call the fire department or police for help. Don’t go back inside until your home has been carefully checked and determined to be safe. Taking the above safety precautions about carbon monoxide is the best way to protect your family during the holiday season and all year long.

Carbon Monoxide Can be a Danger Any Time of Year

About Yasir Saleem, DO

Dr. Yasir Saleem was a history major in college but that all changed when he took an emergency medical technician (EMT) course. “I thought it would be a good way to explore the medical field,” he explains. “So that’s what helped steer me into medicine. I initially thought I was going to practice in mental health but later settled on Family Medicine as a career.”

At Reliant Dr. Saleem says that he finds each day in Family...

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