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Deep Snow Can Cause Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

You can take steps now to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning before the snow banks get any deeper.

Carbon monoxide poisoning doesn’t only come from operating generators in enclosed spaces. There are other ways that the deadly gas can get trapped in your home or your vehicle and, since it’s odorless and colorless, you may not realize it’s there until it’s too late.

CO poisoning starts out with a headache, fatigue, and nausea, which can be easily blamed on a cold or flu. If you think you’ve been exposed to the gas, get outside immediately and head to an emergency room. But, before that happens, here are a few ways to prevent carbon monoxide from endangering the lives of your family.

Mario Tama, Getty Images
Mario Tama, Getty Images

Heating and Dryer Vents


It’s easy to forget about all the vents on the outside of your home, but you want to pay attention when the snow gets deep. A blocked heating or dryer vent will cause Carbon Monoxide to back up into the house. Take a walk around the house and check all of your exhaust vents, clearing snow away from them so they work correctly. Also, check behind the door of the vent to make sure snow and ice haven’t packed inside.

Julian Herbert , Getty Images
Julian Herbert , Getty Images

Car Exhausts


It’s tempting, when your vehicle is buried in snow, to run the engine while you’re digging it out, so you can defrost the windows at the same time. But that can spell trouble if the tailpipe is blocked with snow. Same goes if you slide off the road and get stuck in a snowbank. Keep the engine off until you make clear all snow from the exhaust. A blockage means the Carbon Monoxide will back up in the vehicle.




It may seem like a good idea to start your snowblower inside the garage and let it run for a few minutes while you clear snow in small areas with a shovel. But that snowblower has an exhaust, and venting it into an enclosed space is going to cause CO poisoning. Same goes for running your vehicle’s engine inside the garage. Leaving the garage door open is still no guarantee that those fumes won’t stay inside. Take the snowblower and vehicles outside to warm them up.

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Generators And Alternative Heat Sources


Generators need to be operated outside, at all times. Exhaust fumes build up fast and poison the air with deadly carbon monoxide. Never, ever put the generator in the house, a shed, or even the garage with the door open. It has to be outside to avoid CO poisoning. And, like with your vehicle, make sure the exhaust is clear of snow. Alternative heat sources, like gas-powered heaters, also need to be properly vented so all the exhaust goes outside.

Carbon Monoxide Detector
Getty Images

Working CO Detectors


Even after taking all these measures, there’s always a chance that Carbon Monoxide could find its way into your home. So, it’s important to have working CO detectors in your house to alert you to any danger. Make sure your detectors have battery back-up, so they’re still operational when the power goes out. You’ll need at least one detector on each floor of your house, including the basement if that’s where your furnace is located. Place them outside sleeping areas and near any fuel-burning appliance, including gas stoves. For more information on preventing Carbon Monoxide poisoning, log onto the Maine CDC’s website.


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