The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) is called the “silent killer” because it’s a colorless, tasteless, and sometimes odorless toxic gas, yet it causes thousands of poisoning deaths every year. When you burn gasoline, wood, oil, propane, or natural gas in an enclosed space, you put yourself at risk for CO poisoning. Protect yourself and your family by knowing how to avoid CO dangers, use a CO detector, and treat CO poisoning.
Perform proper maintenance.Your heating system (including chimneys, ducts, and vents) and your hot water heater should be thoroughly inspected by a qualified technician every year.
Keep generators outside.Never use a portable generator inside your home or garage, even if the doors and windows are open. Only use generators outside, at least 20 feet away from your doors and windows.
Don’t leave space heaters unattended.Only use a space heater if someone in the house will be awake and alert enough to make sure it’s functioning correctly. Also make sure it is in a room with good air flow. You don’t want to use one in a tightly enclosed space.
- Be especially mindful of this if you live in a mobile home, which is likely smaller and more limited in terms of space and airflow.
Only use grills and camp stoves outside.Charcoal grills or camp stoves should never be used indoors (this includes your home, garage, tent or any other enclosed area) for heating or cooking. No matter how much you are tempted, do not barbecue or use your camp stove in the garage.
Never use a gas range or oven as a heat source.Ovens and stoves are designed specifically for food preparation. They should never be used as a heating source for your home.
- If you have insufficient heating and this is your only option, at least make sure that the flame is active and the switch is off.
Check your vehicle’s exhaust.Every year, you should have your vehicle’s exhaust system checked by a professional. Don’t ever leave your car running in your attached garage, even if the doors are open. Fumes can still make their way into your home.
Look out for soot.If you see soot coming from your fireplace or an appliance, it’s a bad sign. Make sure you open the damper on your fireplace before lighting a fire. Keep it open until all the ashes are cool. An open damper helps to prevent CO buildup.
Check your pipes.Vent pipes that become loose or disconnected can become a major problem. Make sure pipes are connected properly with no rust or water streaks.
Keep an eye on your pilot light.A pilot light that frequently blows out could be a sign of CO being present in your home. Weak, yellowish flames can indicate a problem and the presence of CO. The flame on your pilot light should always be bright blue or blue-green with a yellow tip.
Pay attention to any odd smells in your home.If CO is being released in a home that has a gas oven or gas heating, you should be able to smell it early on. It typically smells faintly of gas or sometimes of rotting eggs. If you start to notice either of these smells, do not ignore them.
Check for moisture.Excessive or increased condensation inside your windows, walls, or cold surfaces in your home can also be a sign of CO buildup.
Keep important information handy.By contacting your local Fire Department, you can find out who you should call in your area if you ever encounter a problem in your home. A local utility company can also provide you with useful information about local resources. By arming yourself with the information you need, you’ll be prepared if danger strikes.
Using a CO Detector
Buy a CO Detector.When you purchase your CO alarm, make sure that it is audible and battery-powered (or that it includes a battery backup.) Look for models with digital displays that will tell you precise CO level readings in addition to beeping an alarm.
Install several CO detectors throughout your home.Make sure you have at least one CO detector on each level of your home (including the basement) to alert you if poisonous gas is present.
- Consider placing an alarm outside each bedroom or sleeping area in your home.
- For a small, one-level home, one CO alarm would be sufficient.
- Don’t place an alarm inside your garage where high CO from car exhaust may trigger a false reading.
- Don't place alarms near doors or windows because the fresh air could cause a false low reading.
Link your alarms together.By connecting your alarms together, you will be sure to be alerted to danger. If one detects the presence of CO in your home, they will all go off. Most alarms can be wirelessly interlinked together.
Test your alarms.Regularly check your alarms to make sure they are working correctly. Be sure to change your batteries on a regular basis to ensure proper battery backup.
Treating CO Poisoning
Ventilate your home and get outside.The first thing you should do if you suspect CO poisoning is open all of your door and windows. Then get outside immediately so that you can take in the fresh air.
Get medical assistance.If you suspect that that you or a loved one have suffered CO poisoning, call emergency services or proceed directly to a medical professional. The effects of CO poisoning should not be treated at home.
- The emergency team will likely administer oxygen via a mask in order to counter the CO.
- There may be a need for IV fluids and some medications if the poisoning is severe enough.
- If you find someone on the floor unconscious from CO poisoning, remove the person first and then call the emergency team.
Know the signs.Signs and symptoms of CO poisoning can appear suddenly or over a long period of time. As CO builds up in your body, symptoms can get worse and worse. You may notice that symptoms subside when you leave a building and then you feel worse when you return.
- Early signs of CO poisoning include:
- Feeling lightheaded
- Late signs of CO poisoning include:
- Shortness of breath
- Early signs of CO poisoning include:
QuestionWhat are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?Community AnswerCO poisoning has many symptoms including those that can be mistaken for the flu. Nausea, feeling lightheaded, confusion, dizziness, and vomiting are all symptoms.Thanks!
Video: Carbon Monoxide Medical Course
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