Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is another invisible, odorless gas that is made whenever fuel, such as wood, gasoline, coal, natural gas, kerosene, etc. is burned. There may be other smells coming from the burning fuel source, but carbon monoxide is odorless. Carbon monoxide can get into your home if you leave your car, truck or other vehicle running; if your home has a poorly vented or malfunctioning hot water heater, furnace, space heater, fireplace or kitchen cooking stove; or if you burn charcoal, alcohol, gas or cigars, cigarettes or pipes in an enclosed tent, camper or small room.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide stops your body from being able to use oxygen. It creates a poison in your blood and can harm your central nervous system and even your heart. Carbon monoxide poisoning can look like you're coming down with the flu or food poisoning.


  • Blurry Vision
  • Cardiac Arrest
  • Coma
  • Death
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Loss of Consciousness

  • Loss of Hearing
  • Nausea
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Respiratory Failure
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
Although everyone can be poisoned by carbon monoxide, some people with existing health problems, such as heart and lung disease and the elderly, are especially vulnerable. Infants, children and pregnant women are also at high risk.

How to Protect Yourself

To protect yourself and your family there are some steps you can take:
  • Use carbon monoxide home alarms to let you know when carbon monoxide levels are high.
  • Have your furnace and fireplace cleaned and inspected each year before it gets cold.
  • If you are using non-electrical space heaters, do so only in open, well-ventilated areas.
  • Don't start or leave running cars, trucks or other vehicles in an enclosed area.
  • If you are having symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and your detector alarm goes off, call 911.
  • If you are not having symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and your detector alarm goes off, check the detector. Reset it with the reset button (if there is one). Turn off any appliances or anything burning fuel and get fresh air into the building. Have your heating system or appliances repaired if necessary.
  • If you are having symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and you do not have a detector, leave the area (to get fresh air) and call 911.

View the North Carolina Division of Public Health brochure (PDF) for more information on how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Carbon Monoxide & the Work Place

    For resources on carbon monoxide and the work place, please visit the Health and Human Services website.