Carbon Monoxide: An Invisible Killer - Learn The Symptoms And How To Protect Your Family's Health

Do My Eyes Deceive Me?

If you were to look around your home through each and every room you would not find carbon monoxide as it can't be seen. It's also odourless and colourless. Additionally, it has no taste or smell either. And because of these facts, this makes it a highly dangerous gas to you and your family, and one you should protect yourself against. Carbon monoxide in high levels will lead to death. All too often you open the newspaper and read about a family that tragically died in their sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning.


So, first and foremost you should have carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your house. In my two-story home I have them on each floor - including basement. I position them throughout according to the recommended locations by the manufacturer. In general, it should be placed where you can hear it while sleeping. If you only place one in the basement then chances are it will not awaken you or your family if it were to go off. If you work extensively in a closed garage then it would be wise to install one there as well. Naturally, vent the car's exhaust outside.

Always remember that these detectors should be tested regularly to make sure they are in good working order. If using battery-operated ones then you should install fresh batteries at least once a year. To make it easy to remember pick 'Christmas' or 'daylight savings time' or 'your birthday' as suitable battery replacement times.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Mild Exposure: Oftentimes, someone will think they have a mild flu but in fact it could be carbon monoxide poisoning as symptoms are very similar. These include: sore eyes, a drippy runny nose and a constant, deep headache.

Medium Exposure: You still possess the mild symptoms but now you are extremely tired and somewhat dizzy. You may also be vomiting. You also seem confused and disorientated which makes rational thought difficult; rational thought being to leave the home and seek the fresh air needed to clear the gas from your lungs.

Extreme Exposure: This is where you pass out and you begin to suffer severe brain damage. And, of course, this leads to certain death.

Responding To Carbon Monoxide in Your Home

If you are experiencing any of the above-mentioned mild to medium symptoms then immediately evacuate the home. Make sure everyone is out, including all pets. If in a rental situation and there are other tenants above or below advise them to exit as well. Turn off the source (if obvious) of the carbon monoxide problem. Throw open all the doors and windows to quickly ventilate the entire home. Reset the alarm, and do not re-enter until safe levels have returned. If the source of the carbon monoxide is unknown to you, then contact your gas provider and have them test out your home. In this case do not touch or turn off appliances or re-set the alarm. Leave that to the professionals as they need to ascertain the extent and source of the problem.

Important Steps to Eliminate Sources of Carbon Monoxide

There are several important steps you can take to minimize the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.

1) Adequate air flow for proper combustion of the fossil fuel is key, so make sure that furnace, hot water heater etc. have room around them to breathe. Don't box them in or store materials right up against them.

2) Have a qualified technician check and clean all fossil-burning appliances such as stove, furnace and fireplace on a regular basis.

3) Check for blockages that may prevent the carbon monoxide from properly being vented. These could include a bird's nest on the chimney, holes or cracks in your liner or mortar deterioration.

4) If using a fireplace, then make sure the flue is not blocked or inadvertently left closed.

Carbon Monoxide is a very serious threat to you and your families health. In my own home I have a gas furnace, gas stove and gas fireplace, so I am always conscious that I am burning fossil fuels that emit carbon monoxide, and if not ventilated properly will cause serious harm. Remember, all carbon monoxide detectors do have a lifespan, usually about seven years, so I would recommend replacing the entire unit on a regular basis.

Oh, and don't forget to install smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers (rated for A,B,C fires) on each level of your home as well. You'll be glad you did.

by Jeffrey Caulfield

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