Protect your home from carbon monoxide

Protect your home from carbon monoxide

If you are like most Americans, you may test the smoke detectors in your house frequently. But, did you think about changing the battery in your carbon monoxide alarm? If not, experts recommend adding this to your to-do list.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that at least 430 people die each year in the United States from unintentional, non-fire related carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO is an odorless gas and may be produced by automobile engines, charcoal grills, indoor and portable heating systems, stoves, water heaters or other items that burn coal, gasoline, kerosene, oil or propane.

When you breathe in carbon monoxide, the poison replaces the oxygen in your bloodstream. Carbon monoxide poisoning is most likely to occur in the winter months when windows are closed and heating devices are being used.

“Symptoms vary from person to person,” says Dr. Joel Nilles, emergency medicine physician at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Individuals at high risk include young children, the elderly, persons with lung or heart disease, people at high altitudes, and smokers.”

CO alarms have been required in Illinois in since January of 2007. The CDC advises that if you don’t have a battery-powered or battery back-up CO alarm, now is a great time to buy one.

The CDC also recommends the following do’s and don’ts to prevent carbon monoxide exposure:

  • Do have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds leave your home immediately and call 911.
  • Do seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous.
  • Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or outside less than 20 feet from a window, door, or vent.
  • Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
  • Don’t heat your house with a gas oven.

“This type of exposure can be devastating but is very preventable,” Dr. Nilles says. “Take the recommended precautions and keep your family safe.”

For more information on safety and carbon monoxide, visit

Related Posts



  1. Thank you so much for this. This is incredibly helpful and will save many lives.

  2. I remember learning about this in high school and immediately making my parents put a detector in our basement. Just changed the batteries last month. I completely agree: very scary, but preventable!

  3. Great safety tips!

  4. An important tip from my home inspector when I bought my place was to get a separate carbon monoxide detector and place it in an outlet closer to the floor. I have pretty high ceilings, so he said the smoke/carbon monoxide detector on the ceiling wouldn’t be as effective, as the carbon monoxide, heavier than air settles closer to the floor.

  5. It’s important not just to have a detector, but to make sure it’s up to date. It was recommended by our home inspector to replace our detectors that were more than 7 years old.

About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.