Carbon Monoxide… the Invisible Killer

Happy New Year! It’s Time for an Insurance Check-Up
January 4, 2016
Why do I need a home inventory?
February 3, 2016
Show all

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 into something fatal. If your heat is turned on, it’s likely all your windows 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 that’s simply not a risk worth taking. If you need to use a generator, be sure to always keep it outside of your home.
  • Never bring unvented appliances, such as charcoal grills or kerosene heaters inside your home for heating or cooking.       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 Alarm

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 aforementioned symptoms 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 in your home to confirm if you’ve been exposed to CO gas.

Comments are closed.