Cincinnati Children’s Drug and Poison Information Center Cautions Families about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning During the Winter Months

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

CINCINNATI –Most parents are careful and cautious about having and storing poisonous substances in their home. But there is one poison that is impossible to see or smell and it can be deadly. The poison is carbon monoxide (CO) and it is particularly dangerous in the winter due to malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, water heaters and idling cars in attached garages.

Earl Siegel, Pharm. D, Director, Drug and Poison Information Center (DPIC), Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center says that CO is called the “silent killer” because it can’t be seen or smelled, and high levels of exposure can kill within minutes. “Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially susceptible,” says Siegel.

The following are some tips to help prevent CO poisoning during the winter season.

  • Make sure appliances are installed properly. Follow manufacturer codes and building codes when installing any appliances. Most appliances should be installed by professionals.
  • Have heating systems inspected annually. Inspectors should check chimneys and vents for flues of blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
  • Install a CO detector/alarm. The detector should be placed in the hallways outside each sleeping area of the home. Make sure the detector can’t be covered by any furniture or drapes.
  • Never burn charcoal inside a closed space. This includes homes, garages, vehicles, or tents.
  • Never leave a car running inside a garage. Even if the garage door is open this can be dangerous.
  • Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skills, and tools. Always refer to the owner's manual when performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning appliances.
  • Never use gas appliances to heat your home. This includes ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers.
  • Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances. Do not operate these appliances in a room with closed doors and windows or in any room where people are sleeping.
  • Do not use gasoline-powered tools and engines indoors. If use is unavoidable, ensure that adequate ventilation is available and whenever possible place engine unit to exhaust outdoors.
  • Be aware of the CO poisoning symptoms. CO poisoning symptoms can mimic flu-like symptoms. They can also include shortness of breath, vomiting, headaches, drowsiness and fatigue, nausea, and muscle weakness and confusion.

If you think you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning, call DPIC at 513-636-5111 or toll free at 1-800-222-1222. Skilled staff can offer recommended treatment for emergencies and advice or concerns about poisons and drugs 24 hours a day.

About Cincinnati Children's

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S. News and World Report's 2011 Best Children's Hospitals ranking. It is ranked #1 for gastroenterology and in the top 10 for all pediatric specialties - a distinction shared by only two other pediatric hospitals in the United States. Cincinnati Children's is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health. It is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at

Contact Information

Danielle Jones, 513-636-9473,