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How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

​​​​Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poison gas that is a by-product of appliances, heaters, and automobiles that burn gasoline, natural gas, wood, oil, kerosene, or propane. It has no color, no taste, and no odor.

Unintentional carbon monoxide poisonings account for approximately 400 to 500 deaths (all ages) and more than 15,000 emergency department visits in the United States annually. 

When your child breathes CO, it harms the ability of his or her blood to transport oxygen. Although everyone is at risk for CO poisoning, it is particularly dangerous for children because they breathe faster and inhale more CO per pound of body weight.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages families and communities to work together to protect children against carbon monoxide poisoning, especially in times of a crisis or disaster. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases after disasters when gasoline- or diesel-powered generators may be more frequently used to supply power.

Your Carbon Monoxide Detector:  

Install battery-operated or battery back-up CO detectors near every sleeping area in your home, and check them regularly to be sure they are functioning properly. Carbon monoxide detectors that meet the UL standard 2034, when used properly, may provide early detection and warning and may prevent unintentional carbon monoxide related deaths.

Tips to Prevent Problems with Carbon Monoxide in the Home & Other Environments:

The largest group that suffers from CO poisonings are homeowners. Reduce your family's exposure to CO by following the recommendations below.

Fuel-burning appliances

  • Forced-air furnaces should be checked by a professional once a year or as recommended by the manufacturer. Pilot lights can produce CO and should be kept in good working order.

  • All fuel-burning appliances (e.g., gas water heaters, gas stoves, gas clothes dryers) should be checked professionally once a year or as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Gas cooking stove tops and ovens should not be used for supplemental heat.

Fireplaces & woodstoves

  • Fireplaces and woodstoves should be checked professionally once a year or as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Check to ensure the flue is open during operation. Proper use, inspection, and maintenance of vent-free fireplaces (and space heaters) are recommended.

Space heaters

  • Fuel-burning space heaters should be checked professionally once a year or as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Space heaters should be properly vented during use, according to the manufacturer's specifications.

Barbecue grills & hibachis

  • Never use barbecue grills or hibachis indoors.

  • Never use barbecue grills or hibachis in poorly ventilated spaces such as garages, campers, and tents.

Automobiles & other motor vehicles

  • Regular inspection and maintenance of the vehicle exhaust system are recommended. Many states have vehicle inspection programs to ensure this practice.

  • Never leave an automobile running in the garage or other enclosed space; CO can accumulate even when a garage door is open.

Generators & other fuel-powered equipment

  • Follow the manufacturer's recommendations when operating generators and other fuel-powered equipment.

  • When the power goes out, keep your generator outside. Portable back-up generators produce CO.

  • Always set up a generator at least 20 feet from your house.


  • Be aware that CO poisoning can mimic symptoms of sea sickness.

  • Schedule regular engine and exhaust system maintenance.

  • Consider installing a CO detector in the accommodation space on the boat.

  • Never swim under the back deck or swim platform as CO builds up near exhaust vents.

Additional Information & Resources:

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2017) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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