During the fall season, with the rain and chill to the air, it is common for residents to use furnaces and household heaters. However, with the warmth comes the potential for carbon monoxide exposures. Every year the Washington Poison Center receives calls on carbon monoxide poisonings; many requiring evaluation in a healthcare facility.
Carbon monoxide poisoning continues to be leading cause of poisoning injury* and death in the United States.
What is carbon monoxide?
- Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous, colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas produced by oil, gas, charcoal, kerosene or wood is burned.
How are people exposed to carbon monoxide?
- Faulty furnace systems
- Blocked exhaust systems
- Kerosene heater
- Indoor use of propane or charcoal grills
- Coal, wood or gas stoves
- Running cars inside closed spaces (garages)
- Faulty fireplaces and chimneys
- Tobacco smoke
- Motorboats or houseboats
What symptoms should I watch for?
- When exposed, it may cause symptoms similar to a cold or the flu: headache, nausea and vomiting, weakness and confusion may be present.
- Be alert for possible CO exposure if multiple people or pets in the same household become sick at the same time. Small children and pets may be more sensitive to CO toxicity.
What should I do if I think I have been exposed to carbon monoxide?
- Remove yourself and your family from the house or building.
- If someone is unconscious and cannot leave, open windows and doors to bring in fresh air.
- Call the Washington Poison Center if you or another individual have been exposed to CO or have questions about poisonings. Poison center phone hotline is free, open 24/7, confidential, and answered by healthcare professionals. The toll free number is 1-800-222-1222.
How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?
- Make sure you have working CO detectors outside of every sleeping area in your household.
- Have your heating system, chimney, fireplace, and flues professionally inspected annually.
- Make sure rooms with kerosene heaters are well ventilated and unplug portable heaters when not in use.
- Generators should be at least 20 feet away from buildings
- Never use charcoal grills for indoor cooking or heating.
- Never leave your car running inside an enclosed space.
For more information including information in other languages, go to: WA State Department of Health Carbon Monoxide Safety
Call the Washington Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 if you feel you or another individual have been poisoned by carbon monoxide or have any questions. Calls are free, confidential, and answered by healthcare professionals.