Stay Safe from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning this Winter

Noble McIntyre on December 1, 2015

Carbon Monoxide Detector Photo Source

’Tis the season for a lot of things. Unfortunately, one of them is carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide (CO) is hard to detect because it is odorless and colorless, and exposure can make you very sick, or even be deadly. The good news is, though, that carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable by following a few simple guidelines.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced when any fuel is burned. You might already have been warned about the danger of starting your car in a closed garage because of the gas fumes that get trapped inside the garage. But, some people don’t realize that carbon monoxide is produced by lots of home appliances, including gas central heating systems, water heaters, space heaters, fireplaces, furnaces and wood-burning stoves. If any one of these systems or devices leaks or is poorly vented, it can cause a dangerous level of carbon monoxide in the air.

How do I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in my home?

You can’t make sure that none of your appliances ever gets a leak or malfunctions, so in addition to keeping your devices and systems well-maintained, the next most important thing is to have a CO detector on every level of your home and near bedrooms. Here are some other ways to keep your family safe from CO poisoning:

  • Be sure that your heating system is well-maintained. A certified professional should come once a year to make sure that the system has been inspected and cleaned.
  • If you use a fireplace, be sure to open the flue each time it is being used, and have a professional clean your chimney each year. As well, check for visible soot, rust, stains or corrosion in any appliances, vents or chimneys. All vents should be able to allow gas to completely escape from any enclosed area.
  • If you use a wood-burning stove, only burn wood and be sure that the stove complies with local regulations and EPA emissions standards. It should be placed on an approved stove board in order to protect the floor from heat and embers.
  • Never use a generator indoors! Especially in severe weather events with power outages, we need to find heat any way we can. But, you might have to resort to loading up with blankets or using your fireplace — a generator can never be run inside, because there is nowhere for the fumes to escape. That also means that you shouldn’t use a gas kitchen oven to heat your home, even in an extreme circumstance. It’s also never a good idea to burn charcoal or use a gas grill indoors.
  • If you are using paint remover indoors, avoid products containing methylene chloride because it converts to carbon monoxide in the body.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

If you are being affected by carbon monoxide, you might feel dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea or irregular breathing. You might feel as if you were coming down with the flu, except without fever. If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, seek medical help immediately. A hospital would likely provide you with oxygen therapy through a mask in order to rid your body of the toxins.

Ultimately, you need to be aware of how anything that uses gas or other fuel is used in your home. Never use an appliance or device that is not specifically intended for an indoor purpose (like a furnace or water heater) and properly vented and maintained. And, be sure that your CO detectors are battery-powered, and that you check them frequently. If you can prevent a problem before it begins, that would be your best bet. If you do feel as though you’re experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure, or if someone else in your household is showing those signs, get to a hospital immediately for treatment. Remember, because CO is odorless and colorless, the only way for you to know that the gas is present in the air before you begin to feel ill is by having a properly activated detector. Stay safe this winter!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Noble McIntyre

Noble McIntyre is the senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law who focuses primarily on drug litigation and catastrophic injury cases. He is currently representing clients injured by the drugs Paxil, Levaquin and testosterone therapy drugs and by clients affected by oil field injuries. His goal has and continues to be to work diligently on behalf of his clients to achieve the highest and best result for his clients’ injuries while maintaining professionalism and abiding by all ethical standards of his profession. Read more about Noble McIntyre.

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