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Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning is entirely preventable. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning every year. Additionally, more than 20,000 visit the ER and more than 4,000 others are hospitalized.
CO, known as the “silent killer” is an odorless, colorless gas that often goes undetected, striking victims while they are sleeping or unaware of its presence. The gas is produced by burning fuel in cars or trucks, portable generators, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces and gas ranges. When an abundance of gas builds up in enclosed spaces, people or animals who breathe it can be poisoned. Ventilation does not always guarantee safety. Exposure to carbon monoxide can result in permanent neurological damage or death and anyone can be at risk.
Winter can be a prime time for carbon monoxide poisoning as people turn on heating devices. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. People who are sleeping or have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms. Protect yourself and your family by following these tips from the CDC:
-Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year
-Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors
-Never use a generator inside your home, basement or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door or vent; fatal levels of carbon monoxide can be produced in just minutes
-Have your chimney checked and cleaned every year, and make sure your fireplace damper is open before lighting a fire and well after the fire is extinguished
-Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly
-Never use a gas oven for heating your home
-Never let a car idle in the garage
-Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
-Never ignore a carbon monoxide alarm and do not try to find the source of the gas. Instead, follow these steps:
-Immediately move outside to fresh air
-Call emergency services, fire department or 911
-Do a head count to check that all persons are accounted for
-Do not reenter the premises until emergency responders have given you permission to do so