Protect You and Your Family from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Winter is upon us, and that means heating systems are running—creating a potentially life-threatening condition that many people ignore until it’s too late. The condition is carbon monoxide poisoning, which injures more than 10,000 people a year and kills more than 5,000 a year.
- 1 What is carbon monoxide?
- 2 How does carbon monoxide enter the body?
- 3 What are the possible effects of carbon monoxide poisoning?
- 4 What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
- 5 How can I protect myself from carbon monoxide poisoning?
- 6 How is severe carbon monoxide poisoning treated?
- 7 FYI Links:
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced when a fuel—such as gas, oil, kerosene, charcoal, or wood—is burned. Carbon monoxide can be found all around you—in cellars, sewers, industrial plants and fires. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur from exposure to burning coal, oil, wood, gas stoves and ovens, kerosene or propane heaters and furnaces, water heaters, automobiles, construction tools, gasoline generators, fire and more.
How does carbon monoxide enter the body?
Carbon monoxide is released into the air we breathe and can reach dangerously high levels. When it is inhaled, it enters the bloodstream and attaches to a blood cell protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to where it is needed. When carbon monoxide attaches to the blood cells, they are unable to carry oxygen to the rest of the body.
What are the possible effects of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Carbon monoxide in your body can be deadly. This can happen when the gas is absorbed over a short time in a closed setting, such as a garage or automobile. It can also be fatal if small amounts of carbon monoxide are inhaled over a long time, which can cause permanent organ and brain damage, particularly in children, the elderly and persons with heart disease.
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Symptoms of possible carbon monoxide poisoning can include:
- nausea and vomiting
- shortness of breath
- headache, confusion
- chest pain, irregular heartbeat
- muscle weakness
- unconsciousness, coma.
How can I protect myself from carbon monoxide poisoning?
“The best protection against carbon monoxide poisoning is to have a working CO detector in your home, and to know the symptoms of CO poisoning,” says L. G., M.D., director of The Center for Hyperbaric Medicine at The University Hospital. Dr. G also recommends the following:
- Use appliances correctly and have them inspected periodically.
- Maintain good ventilation before using gas-powered engines (such as snow-blowers) or chemicals (such as paint remover).
- Have chimneys checked to be sure the flue is open and connected properly.
- Don’t leave a car idling inside a garage.
- Don’t sleep in a room with a gas or kerosene space heater if it is not properly vented.
How is severe carbon monoxide poisoning treated?
“People with severe carbon monoxide poisoning should be treated in a hyperbaric chamber,” says Dr. G. “Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can save your life and prevent permanent injury from the poisoning. During treatment, patients are placed in an airtight chamber and exposed to a pressurized atmosphere filled with 100 percent oxygen, which can increase oxygen levels more than 20 times the normal amount.”
If you ever suspect a carbon monoxide problem in your home, get everyone outside for fresh air, and call 911. Prompt medical treatment is needed for anyone suspected of having carbon monoxide poisoning.
This site provides even more information.
This from the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
The CDC can help you eliminate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
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