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Silencing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Winterize your home to fend off carbon monoxide poisoning

As temperatures plummet and snow continues to fly, the urge to hunker down settles in for many. Before cozying up to the fireplace and treating yourself to a piping mug of hot chocolate, just remember – ‘tis the season to guard against a lurking threat that is out of sight and, often times, out of mind.

Carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness or death if inhaled, is commonly referred to as the “silent killer,” and for good reason. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States, with more than 20,000 people visiting the emergency room and nearly 500 killed each year from overexposure.

The best way to protect yourself is to get detectors installed. That can’t be stressed enough. Wisconsin state code requires that all homes and duplexes have at least one CO detector installed on every level, including the basement. Also consider putting detectors in or near any sleeping areas.

Here are several tips to assist with prevention and detection in order to help ensure a safe and healthy winter season and year ahead for you and yours:

  • Switch out detectors according to the manufacturer’s specifications, typically every five to seven years. To simplify this process, write the replacement date on them when installing.
  • Have any devices that burn fuel – kitchen ranges, water heaters, space heaters, furnaces and fireplaces – inspected regularly by a professional to make sure they are operating properly and free from any blockage.
  • If warming your vehicle before driving, be sure to pull it out of the garage first.
  • When power outages occur during winter storms, avoid using generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, basement, garage, or camper. And never use a gas range or oven to heat a home.

CO Poisoning Warning Signs

In addition to taking appropriate measures to prevent incident, it pays to be aware of the warning signs associated with CO poisoning.

What’s scary about carbon monoxide is that symptoms of an acute exposure are very similar to flu-like symptoms. The only real difference is that the flu is going to usually give you a fever.

Be on high alert if everyone in a household is displaying common signs such as headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Another indicator of a potential problem is if you experience these symptoms at home but not elsewhere.

If you suspect exposure to unsafe levels of CO, evacuate the home or building immediately and then call 911 from a safe area.

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