The weather is starting to cool, especially in the evenings and most of us won’t think a thing about going to our thermostat and changing our system over to heat. If you have a furnace or boiler, you might have a slight burning odor when you first turn it on but this eventually goes away. This is normal and a result of dust particles accumulating on the furnace’s heat exchanger and burning off. But what about the colorless and odorless byproduct of burning fossil fuels that you don’t smell. The carbon monoxide (CO) that puts your family in danger but you won’t know it’s there.

Before you turn on your heating equipment this season have it inspected by a professional technician. It is very important to have a professional technician first, make sure it turns on okay and second, make sure it is operating safely. You want to make sure that you do not have a cracked heat exchanger, which would cause carbon monoxide to leak into your home. Tragedies including death and severe sickness occur every year because of CO poisoning.

Below is information on symptoms of CO poisoning, what to do if you have CO poisoning, and CO poisoning prevention.

Symptoms of CO Poisoning

  • Severe headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Mentally confused
  • Nausea
  • Faintness or fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Symptoms may seem similar to flu, food poisoning or other illnesses

Steps to take if you or a family member has CO Poisoning

  • Get fresh air immediately
  • Open doors and windows
  • Turn off combustion appliances
  • Leave the house
  • Go to the emergency room and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning (CO poisoning can be detected in a blood test)

CO Poisoning Prevention

  • Have your fuel-burning appliances, including oil and gas furnaces, and gas water heaters inspected by a professional technician at the beginning of every heating season. Make certain the flues and chimney are connected, in good condition, and not blocked.
  • Don’t use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
  • With gas dryers, there is also concern of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Since lint and flue gases use the same avenue of exit from the house, a blocked vent can cause CO fumes to back up into the house. This vent needs to be cleaned out periodically.
  • A poor exhaust connection on a gas fired clothes drier can cause CO to leak into your home.
  • Don’t idle your car in the garage. Fumes can build up very quickly in the garage and living area of your home.
  • Don’t ignore symptoms, especially if more than one person is feeling them. You could lose consciousness or die if you do nothing.
  • Anyone who has an oil or gas boiler, oil or gas furnace, gas logs whether they be propane or natural gas, a gas stove or oven, any wood burning appliance or fire place, appliance or heating device that burns fossil fuels needs to have a carbon monoxide detector installed in the home. Using a CO detector is the safest way to protect your family from deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.

For more information regarding CO poisoning go to, www.cpsc.gov and www.epa.gov.