Carbon monoxide, or CO, an odorless, colorless gas can cause sudden illness and death. CO is produced any time a fossil fuel (natural gas, gasoline, oil, coal) is burned in a furnace, vehicle, generator, grill, or elsewhere. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces (house, garage, camper, work shed) and poison the people and animals in them. Most accidental poisonings occur in the winter.
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, nausea/vomiting, chest pain, fatigue and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have or recognize symptoms.
While everyone is at risk for CO poisoning, infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires.
Use a battery back-up CO detector in your home to keep your family safe.
To learn more about CO poisoning, visit the Health Library at MercyHealthSystem.org.