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A Little Scare Tonight


My husband just got back from a late night trip to Walmart. I haven’t been feeling well lately and I have had a headache for the past few days. Headaches by themselves aren’t too unusual. It was unusual to have it for three days in a row. My husband made the connection first – my headaches coincided with when we turned out heat on (which that date was confirmed thanks to this blog!). We both immediately thought about carbon monoxide poisoning so we checked the internet. Headaches can be a symptom of low level carbon monoxide poisoning.

The more we thought about it, the more it made sense. I work upstairs all day and carbon monoxide rises. I could have the most exposure. My son is out of the house for a good portion of the day and my husband is usually downstairs in the draftiest room in the house. They both seem okay, although my husband developed a headache earlier today.

We have a carbon monoxide detector in our home and it seems fine. But, we just found out that they should be replaced every few years. We didn’t realize that. Our detector is about 6 years old. So my husband headed out to Walmart to buy two carbon monoxide detectors (one for each level of our home). While we were waiting for him to come home, we turned our heat off and opened doors and windows to let fresh air in.

After he got home, we got the new detectors up and running. All is well. I think we’ll still keep the furnace off for the night, just in case. We’ll fire it back up in the morning and monitor the level tomorrow. One of the detectors he bought has a digital readout. I have a feeling it will be okay, and this was just a scare.

If you have an older carbon monoxide detector in your home, read through the manual. Make sure it isn’t too old. I feel a bit embarrassed about sharing this story, since we should have read the manual. But it’s a good reminder for everyone so I decided to blog about it.


  • Reply evgren |

    Hi there! Hope you folks are okay; a carbon monoxide issue can definitely be scary, even if it turns out to be a non-issue.

    I don’t know if you’ve thought about this or not, but putting plastic up over all of your windows will trap the CO as much as the heat, I think. If you can do it, you might think about de-plasticing a window on each level to help with the air exchange.

    Glad to hear you all are fine tonight, despite the scare. Keep safe and warm.

  • Reply Rob in Madrid |

    Maybe the technology has changed since I last bought one but ours (10 plus years ago) gave us a false alarm. We called the gas company and they said it was a false alarm and then said most are unreliable, your best off to call the gas company and they should send someone to check it for free.

  • Reply a.b. |

    Glad you are safe. When I moved into my first apartment a CO detector was one of the first things I bought; we don’t have one now because we don’t exactly use the furnace or fireplace here in Vegas. That was an excellent catch, and like I said, we’re just glad you and your family are safe.

  • Reply Kris |


    When something like this happens, you generally should get out of the house and call the fire department without opening any of the doors and windows. They have an instrument that they can check to see if you have carbon monoxide in the house.

    A detector is fine, but given what has happened, I would probably call them in addition to getting a CO detector. That is what you pay taxes for and this is something that you can die from.

    Just my $0.02.

  • Reply Emmi |

    They sell more sensitive detectors that actually give you a number. I bought one at Ace (not cheap tho…) The alarm kind only go off for high level poisoning (kills you in an hour), but not for headachy, low level amounts of CO (may never kill you but makes life miserable). But as others said, call the gas company. They were very responsive once when we were sure we smelled propane in the house. We don’t have propane and neither do our neighbors, but it was so strong. They came right over (right over!) and ran some tests with these belt mounted gadgets (like classic star trek) and it turns out, it was a mix of our painting in the dining room and cooking on the gas stove that makes that smell. I thought they’d be annoyed for something so silly, but they were perfectly nice about it. It’s their job to come check things out.

    Your headache could also be sinuses (not to deflect from your checking out a dangerous situation, btw) from the increase in dry air. Have you tried a neti pot? I find they help a lot when changes in the air brings on a headache. I picked up a little plastic one cheap at rite aid. Works great.

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    It might just be an allergy to the dust from the heating system. Good luck rooting out the cause.

    My ‘gas leak’ story was coming home after a long weekend away and our kitchen smelled like rotten eggs. Rest of the house wasn’t bad, but the kitchen smell was strong. In Ontario (at least) they add the smell of rotten eggs to the gas so it won’t be odorless if there is a leak.

    We called the gas company who said to open all windows, don’t touch any lights (on or off – the switch can make an arc), phone the fire department and leave the house.

    We called the fire department, told them it wasn’t an emergency, then sat out on the front steps. Heard sirens. Heard sirens getting louder. And louder. Saw the trucks (3 of them!) My dh commented it must be a slow day for them…

    Turns out, no gas but they could smell it too so knocked on the door of our neighbour (it was a double house.) She had been baking egg shells in her oven to make fertilizer and the smell was so bad that they had retreated to the basement and not heard the commotion outside.

    We had lived in the house only a few weeks at this point so it was an interesting way to get to know all our neighbours!

    As embarrassing as it was, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

  • Reply Matt |

    Wow! Carbon monoxide is serious business. Glad everyone is ok – and thanks for the tip on replacing CO detectors.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Hi Everyone – I can’t seem to log in at the moment, but I wanted to give an update. Our heat has been on today, and everything is fine. Emmi – you should be a doctor! I woke up today (still with a headache) but now I have an earache. I’m thinking all of my troubles are sinus-related and like you said it could be related to the drier air. I’ve never heard of a neti pot so I’ll have to check them out. When it comes to CO poisoning – it’s better safe than sorry, though. Thanks Kris for mentioning the fire department. I didn’t even think of calling them to check.

  • Reply Sick of Being Poor |

    I used to work in an office building that shared space with a university research office. Unbeknownst to the rest of the tenants, they were researching alternative fuels by burning algae. A grad student didn’t turn the experiment off when he/she left one night and the next morning, we had people passing out in the building from carbon monoxide poisoning. It was really scary and I am very diligent about CO detectors now.

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    Here’s an update from Tricia. I received this slightly later than the update above (if the time stamp on my computer can be believed.)

    “I emailed CanadianKate to see if she could post a little update. I’m having technical difficulties and can’t add one myself. Just so you know, all is well and I’ll update more as soon as I can.”

So, what do you think ?