Classic Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Classic Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide ExposureCarbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from non-automotive consumer products causes 170 U.S. deaths a year, so being exposed to carbon monoxide is not something to take lightly. Read below to learn what you can do to prevent exposure, as well as what to do if you’re exposed to carbon monoxide.

What Is It?

CO is a colorless, odorless gas created by the incomplete burning of certain fuels, including wood, charcoal, petroleum and natural gas products.

Where Is It?

Carbon monoxide primarily comes from equipment powered by internal combustion engines and household appliances that produce heat. The list includes:

  • portable generators
  • automobiles
  • lawnmowers
  • malfunctioning furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters
  • fireplaces
  • charcoal burned in enclosed areas

More than half of deaths are believed to happen during power outages when people use alternate power and heat sources.

Symptoms of CO Poisoning

Because CO is colorless and odorless, people often don’t know they’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide. The classic symptoms are flu-like and include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

More severe symptoms that signal high exposure include:

  • Confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Vomiting
  • Problems with muscle coordination
  • Unconsciousness

What to Do if Exposed to Carbon Monoxide

If you think you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, open the windows, turn off the furnace and get outside into fresh air. Call your fire department to report your symptoms and what you suspect is causing the problem. You should also contact a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment if needed.

Preventing CO exposure?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission provides details on how to prevent carbon monoxide exposure. Recommendations include:

  • Make sure combustion appliances are installed according to manufacturer’s guidelines, and are vented properly to the outside.
  • Have your heating system inspected and serviced annually.
  • Don’t operate a portable generator or other gas-powered equipment in or near buildings.
  • Install a carbon monoxide (CO) detector that meets safety standards. Two or more are even better.
  • Don’t burn charcoal inside.
  • Don’t use non-furnace/boiler gas appliances (oven, range, clothes dryer) to heat your house.

If you need help figuring out if your heating system is functioning properly, or you’re considering whether it’s time to repair or replace, please contact us at Overland Park Heating and Cooling. We’re available 24 hours a day in the Greater Kansas City area.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Overland Park, Kansas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). 

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