No Vacation for Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless toxic gas. It is produced by incomplete combustion of solid, liquid and gaseous fuels. Grills, generators, space heaters and lawn equipment fueled with gas, oil, kerosene, or charcoal may produce CO. If such appliances are not maintained or are used improperly, CO can build up to dangerous levels.

The toxic effect of CO is dependent upon both concentration and length of exposure. Long-term exposure to low concentrations can produce effects similar to a short-term exposure to high concentration.

Some Causes of Warm-Weather CO Poisoning

  • Gas or charcoal grill used inside an enclosed area
  • Gasoline-powered equipment (lawn mower, generator, chain saw) run in a home, garage or under a tarp
  • Gas-fueled lanterns and stoves used inside a small, sealed area like a tent, trailer or boat cabin
  • “Teak surfing” or pulling “skiers” from a boat’s diving platform
  • Diving from or swimming near houseboat platforms
  • An improperly installed or poorly functioning gas-burning appliance in a home sealed to contain air conditioning


The symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu or food poisoning. They include:

  • Fatigue/sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Irregular breathing
  • Confusion or disorientation

If the CO alarm goes off:

  • Check to see if any member of the household is experiencing symptoms.
  • If they are, leave the affected area immediately, get fresh air, and call the Poison Center.
  • If no one is feeling symptoms, open windows/doors and turn off potential sources of CO.
  • Call the fire department or heating and gas company to help find the source of carbon