Carbon Monoxide… the Invisible Killer

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Carbon Monoxide… the Invisible Killer

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is responsible for at least 400 accidental deaths each year and over 5,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms. Unfortunately, carbon monoxide poisoning is often misinterpreted as flu, food poisoning, allergy or asthma, and even chronic fatigue syndrome. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is highly toxic and lethal. Children, the elderly, individuals with respiratory problems and pets are at risk, even at low levels.

The first key to warding off this invisible killer is to know where it might be hiding. The gas is difficult to detect, but keep these suggestions in mind to eliminate possible exposure:

  • Be sure to have your home heating system, boiler, and/or water heater checked regularly (at least once a year) by a trained professional to ensure there are no faulty gas leaks. Lack of ventilation can turn a carbon monoxide leak, even a very small leak, into something fatal. If your heat is turned on, it’s likely all your windows and doors will be shut to keep the cold weather outside, making a leak from your heating system one of the easiest ways for the gas to poison you.
  • Never bring a portable generator inside your home or garage, as that, too, can leak carbon monoxide into an enclosed space. Even if you open doors and windows, the gas may linger for a while before flowing out of your home, and even a small amount of gas can be dangerous. If you need to use a generator, be sure to always keep it outside and away from your home.
  • Never bring unvented appliances, such as charcoal grills or kerosene and propane heaters or lanterns inside your home for heating, cooking, or light.  Never use your grill inside your garage.
  • Open your fireplace damper before lighting a fire, and keep the damper open until the fire has been put out and the ashes are cool. This will prevent the build-up of CO gases inside your home.

Install a Carbon Monoxide Alarms and Detectors

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself against CO poisoning, is to install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.  Carbon monoxide detectors are similar to smoke detectors, and alert you when you may be at risk. These detectors are simple and battery-operated, and installing them throughout your home, especially outside bedrooms and in the basement and/or garage can literally save your life.

You can find carbon monoxide alarms at most hardware and big box stores, and they range in price from as low as $15 to as high as $50 apiece. The peace of mind these alarms provide is well worth the price.

Knowing the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

It’s vital to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning so you can take action right away to limit the damage.  Many of these symptoms mimic flu, cold, or other viruses, and alone might not ring any alarm bells in your head.  Symptoms can be subtle and can develop over a long period of time.  The ‘cherry red skin’ so often read about in detective novels or seen discussed on TV is actually rarely seen.

If you suddenly experience any of the following symptoms, be sure to see or contact your doctor or go to an emergency room as soon as possible:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness or unsteadiness
  • General weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Confusion
  • Palpitations
  • Unconsciousness

Upon first experiencing these symptoms, it’s vital you get yourself outside into fresh air as fast as possible before calling your doctor (or 911 in the case of extreme emergencies). Carbon monoxide can cause you to lose muscular coordination and sometimes faint, so it’s important to take precautionary measures if you experience any of the symptoms above before they worsen, especially if you’re alone.

If there’s a slow gas leak in your home that gradually takes affect over time, your physician may confuse your symptoms with the flu or a virus. This is why it’s so important to understand these symptoms and to install at least one carbon monoxide alarm on every level of your home to confirm if you’ve been exposed to CO gas.

About Foundation Insurance Group

Headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia and with a mid-west office in Louisville, Kentucky, Foundation Insurance Group is an independent full-service insurance agency specializing in auto, home, life, and business insurance.  Since our founding in 1994 the mission has been simple:  “Our mission is to provide solid solutions backed by superior service at a competitive price.”  For years we’ve partnered with a variety of top rated insurance carriers to fulfill this mission and to provide our clients with tailored insurance programs that fit the unique needs of an individual or business.

For more information about homeowners, auto, life, and business insurance, contact us today, or visit our website:  www.foundationinsurancegroup.com.

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