Staying Safe While Staying Warm: Carbon Monoxide Reminders

Brrr — you know it’s cold outside when schools are canceling classes and parts of the country that normally don’t see snow are getting it. 

With the arctic-like temperatures outside, families are likely doing everything they can to keep warm. So this is the perfect opportunity to remember carbon monoxide (CO) safety.

Warning Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is appropriately dubbed the silent killer: it is invisible, odorless, tasteless, and non-irritating. Initial signs of CO poisoning include vomiting, dizziness, headache, and confusion, which can be mistaken for the flu. More serious complications are loss of consciousness, nerve damage, permanent disability and even death. Essentially CO blocks our body’s ability to absorb oxygen, and thus, has the same effect as suffocation.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Potential sources of CO exposure include furnaces, water heaters, and gasoline-powered equipment like generators, snow blowers, water pumps. The inappropriate use of cooking equipment to heat the house can also cause CO exposure. Examples: gas ranges, charcoal grills and camping stoves inside the home. 

Fall is the time to be most concerned about CO, when families initially turn on their furnaces. The chimney flue should be cleared of obstructions so that CO has a clear exit from the house.

But now that we’re in the throes of winter, here are a few CO safety measures to keep in mind:

Carbon Monoxide Safety Reminders

 

Be Cautious of Space Heaters

Families might be placing space heaters in bedrooms for extra warmth at night. Please keep in mind that some space heaters contain kerosene, butane or propane, which can emit carbon monoxide. These devices need to be properly maintained to ensure that only a safe amount of CO is emitted. If you have the option, an electric space heater is the safer choice.

Check Your Carbon Monoxide Detector

To ensure the safety of those in your home, it is imperative to have a carbon monoxide detector. The most effective detectors have battery backup in case of power outages and digital peak concentration readouts. For the best prevention, make sure to have a detector at least 15 feet from each bedroom.

Be Mindful When Warming Up Your Car

Because of the bitter cold, many of us are also letting our cars warm up before driving them. Please take the extra step to pull your car out of the garage before letting it sit. Simply opening the garage door does not create enough ventilation to remove the carbon monoxide from the garage.

If you suspect that you or someone in your family is showing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, get away from the source of the exposure and contact your Drug and Poison Information Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

Sheila Goertemoeller, PharmD, D.ABAT

About the Author: Sheila Goertemoeller, PharmD, D.ABAT

<p>Sheila Goertemoeller PharmD, DABAT, ICPS is a pharmacist and clinical toxicologist with 22 years of experience at the Drug and Poison Information Center Hotline at Cincinnati Children’s.</p>

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Comments

  1. JAS January 04, 09:40
    Always a great reminder. Thanks