Safety Tips to Protect Yourself from Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an extremely dangerous gas. Especially during Wisconsin winters when using a furnace and fireplace for heat or warming up a vehicle. It’s important to understand the risks of carbon monoxide, what you can do to mitigate the risk and know the warning signs. 

What is carbon monoxide?  

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas which can cause sudden illness and death. What makes this gas so dangerous is that when you breathe it, it replaces the oxygen in your blood. Carbon monoxide is produced when fossil fuels (wood, coal, oil, natural gas, gasoline) burn incompletely. Common sources if not used properly are cars, fireplaces, powerboats, wood stoves, charcoal grills, and gas appliances such as water heaters, ovens, and dryers. If these fuel burning appliances are not installed and used properly, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can build up inside a house or other enclosed area.  

How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning  

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home in central locations and especially near sleeping areas. Make sure you test and replace the batteries on a routine basis so they are in working condition. A good rule of thumb is to replace the batteries when you set your clocks in the spring and fall during daylight savings.  
  • Have your heating system and any other gas, oil, or coal systems serviced by a licensed technician every year.  
  • Never run a vehicle inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open. The exhaust fumes can build up in an enclosed area.  
  • Make sure gas appliances are vented properly. Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented. 
  • Generators and grills should always be used outside the home and away from windows and doors.  
  • Do not heat your house with a gas oven. 

What are carbon monoxide symptoms?  

Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are nausea, weakness, light headed or dizziness. If you experience any of these symptoms, leave your home immediately and call 911. If you breathe in a lot of CO, it can be extremely serious to your health causing you to pass out or worse. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning in addition to 20,000 emergency room visits. It is an extremely serious illness.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can often be prevented by following routine maintenance of household appliances and vehicles and always staying cautious when using appliances that burn fossil fuels. For more home safety tips and to assess your level of risk, contact your local Rural Mutual agent