Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – What You Need to Know

As winter slowly settles in and more people turn on their heating systems to combat the cold, it is vital to keep an eye out for carbon monoxide buildup.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

            Carbon Monoxide, or ‘CO’, is often referred to as the “Invisible Killer” because it is a poisonous, clear, colorless and odorless gas that is produced any time a fossil fuel is burned.

If left to build up in your homes or vehicles, Carbon Monoxide can lead to serious illness-and possibly death-to any person or animal who breathes it in.

Where Is It Found?

            Carbon Monoxide is found in the fumes from anything you use to burn fuel. It can most commonly be found in the fumes from:

Cars Trucks Small Engines
Grills Stoves Fireplaces
Lanterns Furnaces Gas Ranges  

Symptoms

According to the CDC, symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning appear to be “flu-like” and include the following:

Headache Weakness Dizziness
Upset Stomach Vomiting Chest Pain
  Confusion  

Who’s at risk?

Everyone is at a potential risk of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. However, those most likely to be affected by CO poisoning are infants and the elderly. Those with chronic health problems such as heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems-like asthma or COPD-also run a higher risk of being affected.

Prevention

            The CDC recommends that the best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning from happening to you is to install a Carbon Monoxide detector in your homes. Make sure to check/replace the batteries twice a year (it is recommended that the best time to do this is in the spring and fall when you change the time on your clocks), as well as replacing the detector itself every five (5) years or so.

In order to prevent Carbon Monoxide buildup, the CDC also recommends doing the following:

  • Have your water heater, heating system, or any other fuel (gas, oil, or coal) burning appliances serviced every year by a qualified technician.
  • Have chimneys checked/cleaned every year. Your chimney could be blocked by debris, which can cause a CO buildup in your living space.
  • DO NOT use a gas range or oven to heat your living space.
  • DO NOT burn charcoal indoors. CO can be found in any type of burning charcoal.
  • Check to make sure your gas appliances are being properly ventilated.

It is also recommended that, in order to prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning from your car/truck, you should:

  • Have a qualified mechanic check your car/trucks exhaust system every year.
  • Never run your car/truck inside a garage that is attached to your home, even if the garage door is open.
  • If you have a detached garage, make sure to open the garage door when you run your car/truck to let in fresh air.

For a complete list of ways to prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning or buildup from occurring in your home, please check out the CDC Website, linked below!

https://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm

Conclusion

            According to the CDC more than 400 people die every year from unintentional CO poisoning, that is not linked to fires. Additionally, more than 20,000 people visit the ER for symptoms related to CO poisoning, and more than 4,000 of them are hospitalized. If your Carbon Monoxide detector does go off, make sure to immediately vacate everyone-including your pets!-from the premises and call 911. Never ignore it if your CO detector goes off!

So remember, now that it’s getting colder out take all the steps you can to ensure that Carbon Monoxide poisoning does not happen to you or anyone else in your home!