Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
CO is an odorless, invisible gas produced when gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene, and other fuels are not completely burned during use. Automobile exhaust is the most common source of CO, but small gas engines, camp lanterns and stoves, charcoal grills, gas ranges and furnaces also produce it. When appliances and furnaces are improperly adjusted and used in poorly ventilated areas, dangerous amounts of CO can build up in the blood, replacing oxygen, and may cause asphyxiation. Carbon monoxide deaths occur most frequently during cold winter months and it kills hundreds of Americans every year. The highest number of fatalities is among those aged 65 and older.
Follow these steps to keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning this winter:
- Have a qualified technician inspect your furnace every year. Both oil and gas furnaces produce carbon monoxide.
- Install battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors near every sleeping area in your home. Check them regularly to ensure they're working properly.
- Never use a portable generator inside your home or garage, even if the doors and windows are open.
- Use generators outside only, and make sure they are at least 20 feet away from doors and windows.
- Never use camp stoves, charcoal grills or any other gas or oil-burning device inside the home.
- Never heat your house with a gas oven.
Recognizing CO Poisoning Symptoms
Although everyone is susceptible to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, unborn babies, infants, the elderly, and people with respiratory problems are particularly at risk. Carbon monoxide poisoning can also be particularly dangerous for people who are sleeping or intoxicated. People may have irreversible brain damage or even die before anyone realizes there's a problem. Since CO is invisible, odorless and tasteless, it's important to know the symptoms of CO poisoning and to immediately seek medical help.
Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:
- Persistent headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
If you think you or someone you're with may have carbon monoxide poisoning, get into fresh air and seek emergency medical care immediately.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on carbon monoxide symptoms and poisoning.