How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


Photo of Will Tollefson, MD Emergency Medicine

William Tollefsen, MD, Vice Chair of Emergency Medicine and Urgent Care

South Shore EMS responded to what sounded like a typical call: a patient having chest pains. When our team arrived on the scene last month, the carbon monoxide (CO) detectors attached to the EMT’s medical equipment bags sounded. 

Weymouth firefighters confirmed levels in the patient’s home were above 400 parts per million, a life-threatening level. It was then evident that the patient’s symptoms were likely associated with carbon monoxide poisoning. Luckily, the patient and nine members of her family were evacuated from the home and treated at South Shore Hospital.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal if exposed to large amounts.

It is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel – like in cars, stoves, fireplaces, or furnaces. When it builds up indoors, it becomes dangerous.

As we head into the cold winter months, the risk of rising CO levels in our homes increases, thanks to more frequent use of heating devices.

In order to keep yourself and your family safe, it is important to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, and how to protect your loved ones.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Symptoms include:

  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Headaches and fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms

Carbon monoxide poisons the body by removing oxygen in the blood stream, slowly suffocating victims. It can affect your ability to think clearly, and people who are sleeping at the time of exposure will likely not wake up.

If you think you or someone in your home may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, don’t wait – call 911 immediately!

How can I protect myself and my family?

Make sure your home is equipped with a carbon monoxide detector on each floor.

If you are reading this and don’t have working detectors in your home, fix it now.

Don’t go to sleep tonight without installing working carbon monoxide detectors. If you can’t afford one, check in with your city or town. Weymouth residents can call the fire department’s fire prevention division for help getting a carbon monoxide detector.

Maintenance is important too. If your detectors run on batteries or plug into the wall with a backup battery, change the battery at least once a year. Be sure to replace your carbon monoxide alarms every five to seven years.

With a little prevention, you can keep your family safe this winter.

To learn more about South Shore EMS, visit our website.