Take Precautions this Season to Prevent Risk of CO Poisoning

December 17, 2008

Always err on the side of caution with fuel-burning devices that live in the home.

We are now in the chilliest season of the year. Homes across the region are using heaters and furnaces for warmth. While turning up the heat may bring us comfort, it is important to be wary that some heating devices might also bring us danger.

Heaters and furnaces emit carbon monoxide (CO), which is a leading cause of poison deaths. “Carbon monoxide poisoning results in hundreds of deaths and thousands of illnesses every year,” said Norma Barton, a certified specialist in poison information at the Ruth A. Lawrence Poison and Drug Information Center. “It is especially dangerous because it has no color, odor, or taste. What’s more, CO-producing devices live in our homes. All fuel-burning devices may emit CO, and should be treated as potentially dangerous.”These CO-making devices include gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas stoves, gas ovens, kerosene space heaters, wood and gas fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, power generators and car engines.

There are a lot of precautionary measures that families can take to prevent CO poisoning in their homes:

  • First, always err on the cautious side. Make sure to have a CO alarm in your home and have your heating system, vents and chimney checked every year by experts. Always read and follow the directions, especially when installing and repairing appliances that burn fuel. Use heating devices as they were designed. This means not using a gas oven to heat an apartment, for example.
  • Second, prevent CO from collecting in closed areas. Make sure and that all indoor fuel-burning devices have vents. Charcoal should never be burned inside a house or garage. Running a car in a closed garage emits a lot of CO as well, so wait until the garage is open to start the car.
  • Third, everyone in the household should be familiar with signs that indicate CO poisoning. These signs can be difficult to pick out, since they are very similar with signs common with the flu and cold-weather viruses. However, as the saying goes, better safe than sorry. If you or someone else has headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or confusion, call Poison Help at the number listed below. This line connects you to a poison expert at your local Poison Center.

The Poison Control Center consists of poison experts with advice for all kinds of poison-related emergencies. However, many people do not know that the center also offers advice for non-emergencies. Prevention is key, so Barton asks that people call with any questions concerning chemicals or medicine, whether they are worried about a side-effect from your medications or if the dog swallowed something he shouldn’t have.

For more information, contact a local poison expert by calling Poison Help 1-800-222-1222 or going to www.fingerlakespoison.org for poison prevention tips.

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