Each year, the number of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning incidents increase especially during the colder months. According to the Department of Health, about two-thirds of the reported victims are poisoned by CO from fuel-burning sources such as heaters.
All about carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a dangerous gas that can cause sudden illness and death. Often referred to as a silent killer, its presence is barely noticeable because of its colorless, tasteless, odorless, and non-irritating properties. This CO gas is produced any time fuels such as natural gas, propane, gasoline, and coal are burned.
The common sources of CO at home include appliances like space and water heaters, non-electric stoves and ranges, furnaces, and gas or charcoal grills. Portable generators, automobiles, and fuel-powered tools and equipment like lawn mowers, snow blowers, chain saws, and pressure-washers also emit carbon monoxide.
Symptoms of CO poisoning
When CO is breathed in, it attaches to hemoglobin, the molecule in the blood that delivers oxygen throughout the body. CO poisons the body by interfering with the body’s ability to get enough oxygen. What’s alarming is how the initial symptoms of CO poisoning mimic that of flu – headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, chest pain and tightness, shortness of breath, and fast heartbeat. At times, blurry vision and seizures also occur.
How to ensure your safety
Just recently, an Arizona family’s death caused by carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning has reached the headlines. They are believed to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to a significant failure in their friend’s cabin’s heating system.
To protect your family, here are tips on how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:
- Install a CO detector and make sure to change its batteries every 2-3 months. It’s the best way to protect your whole household from accidental CO poisoning.
- When you’re staying somewhere else, a hotel for example, quickly scan the area and ensure there are smoke and carbon monoxide alarms or detectors.
- Be aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning. If you suspect that you or someone has carbon monoxide poisoning, seek fresh air and call 911 immediately.
- Always operate fuel-powered equipment or tools and portable generators outdoors or in an open space – never in a garage, basement, or any enclosed space.
- Have your heating system and any other fuel-powered appliances and equipment be serviced by a qualified technician regularly or every year.
- Never heat your house with a gas oven or burn anything in a fireplace or stove that isn’t properly vented.
- If your CO detector ever sounds, leave your home and call 911 immediately. In case of symptoms, seek prompt medical attention as well.
- Regarding your automobiles, make sure to have their exhaust systems checked annually. More than that, always make sure they are in their good working order.
- Always check and make sure your cooktop vent, chimney, and chimney opening are working properly – properly installed, and without clogs and leaks.
- In areas of poor ventilation, use appropriate facemasks for additional safety.
CO poisoning is a silent killer. Don’t allow yourself or your family to be its victim. Be on your guard!