Carbon monoxide poisoning factsheet


Carbon Monoxide is a poisonous gas that you cannot see, taste, or smell. It is made when fuels used for heating, cooking, and transport do not burn fully.

Carbon monoxide gas can be made by:

  • gas stoves and ovens
  • barbecues and grills
  • fireplaces
  • heaters
  • cars
  • lawnmowers
  • household appliances that are old or not working correctly.

This gas can build up inside places that are enclosed, like houses, apartments, garages, and sheds, and quickly causes poisoning and death.

Everyone is at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, especially

  • babies
  • pregnant women
  • elderly people
  • people with chronic medical problems, like heart disease.  

 Signs and symptoms

Carbon monoxide is a clear gas you cannot see, taste or smell. It is very easy to breathe in without realising it.

Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

Symptoms of poisoning will get worse the longer a person is exposed to the gas.

Being exposed to carbon monoxide gas over a longer period can cause:

  • loss of consciousness
  • seizures
  • permanent brain injury
  • death.

If you think your child is experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, you should:

  • turn off all gas appliances
  • open all windows
  • call the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for immediate support and information on which emergency department to go to for treatment. 


Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance if your child has:

  • difficulty breathing
  • collapsed.


Your child’s doctor will be able to diagnose carbon monoxide poisoning by:

  • checking their symptoms
  • doing a blood test
  • using a fingertip monitor to check the levels of carbon monoxide in their blood.


Carbon monoxide poisoning is treated by breathing in fresh oxygen immediately.

If your child is exposed to carbon monoxide, you should:

  • turn off all gas appliances, put out all fires and turn off all engines
  • open all windows and doors to bring fresh air into the area
  • take your child outside into the fresh air
  • call the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for immediate support and information on which emergency department to go to for treatment.

If your child has more severe symptoms, they may need to be treated with oxygen in the hospital.


How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

The best way to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning is to make sure:

  • all appliances are working well and checked regularly
  • things that make smoke, like barbecues or grills, are not used inside
  • fireplaces and exhaust pipes or flues are not blocked
  • appliances are only used in areas where fresh air can get in and out.

Heaters used indoors with windows and doors closed are more likely to cause carbon monoxide poisoning. To stay safe, have your heater checked regularly by a professional, and only buy heaters approved for indoor use.

Carbon dioxide monitors

You can find carbon monoxide monitors and alarms at your local hardware store. These monitors only detect the gas and do not detect things like smoke or fire, so they are different from fire alarms. 

There is no standard in Australia for carbon monoxide monitors, so it is important to research them well before buying and using them.

Carbon monoxide monitors and alarms are available to buy at hardware stores. These monitors only detect gas, not smoke or fire. 

There is no standard for carbon dioxide monitors in Australia. It is important to research these monitors before buying and using them.

Last updated Monday 8th April 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024