Carbon Monoxide


Often called the invisible killer, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

CO Poisoning Symptoms

Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer-term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause.

Where Not to Install a CO Alarm

Some locations may interfere with the proper operation of the alarm and may cause false alarms or trouble signals. CO alarms should NOT be installed in the following locations: 

  • Where the temperature may drop below 40 F or exceed 100 F 
  • Near paint thinner fumes or household cleaning products. Ensure proper ventilation when using these types of chemicals.
  • Within 5 feet of any cooking or open flame appliances such as furnaces, stoves and fireplaces.
  • In exhaust streams from gas engines, vents, flues or chimneys.
  • Do not place in close proximity to an automobile exhaust pipe; this will damage the alarm

Prevent CO Poisoning

Play it safe. If you experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Prevent CO Poisoning. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
  • Do not re-enter the premises until cleared by emergency personnel.
  • Go to an emergency room, and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning. If CO poisoning has occurred, it can often be diagnosed by a blood test done soon after exposure.

Follow These Guidelines to Help Keep Your Family Safer

  • Install CO alarms outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home including the basement. The CO alarm can warn you if too much CO is in your home.
  • Keep CO alarms clear of dust and debris.
  • Ensure CO alarms are plugged all the way into a working outlet, or if battery operated, have working batteries.

Additional Resources:

Visit the National Fire Protection Association Website
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website


National Fire Protection Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Infograph showing how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
Infograph showing how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning