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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Don't be a Victim This Winter

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Don’t be a Victim This Winter

CO Detectors a Must for Every Home

It’s known as the silent killer. In 2005, about 250 people died in the United States from carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless and tasteless toxic gas that is formed as a by-product of combustion. Accidental deaths from CO poisoning tend to rise when the temperature drops and people turn on their furnaces. Every winter, hospital emergency departments treat victims of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Russ Harris, M.D., an emergency physician at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. spot danger signsHow can you protect your family this winter? Dr. Harris recommends watching for these danger signs that signal a CO problem:

  • streaks of carbon or soot around the service door of your fuel-burning appliances;
  • the absence of a draft in your chimney;
  • excessive rusting on flue pipes or appliance jackets;
  • moisture collecting on the windows and walls of furnace rooms;
  • fallen soot from the fireplace;
  • small amounts of water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent or flue pipe;
  • damaged or discolored bricks at the top of your chimney;
  • rust on the portion of the vent pipe visible from outside your home.

tips for staying safe To stay safe, Dr. Harris also recommends following these tips:

  • Don’t leave your car running inside your garage, even if the door is open. If you are trying to warm up your car, park it outside first.
  • Check your furnace and other gas-powered utilities to ensure there are no cracks or leaks.
  • Make sure your chimney isn’t clogged, and have it professionally cleaned each year so that smoke doesn’t back up into the home.
  • Buy a CO detector and install one on each floor of your home. If you already have one, remember to replace the batteries regularly to keep it functioning properly.

poisoning Symptoms According to Dr. Harris, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, nausea, blurred vision and headaches. “If several members of the family complain of these symptoms, do not assume it’s just the flu,” he said. If you suspect it might be CO poisoning, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number and evacuate your house.

“Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of poisoning deaths in the United States,” said Dr. Harris. “However, it is preventable if the warning signs are recognized.”

Dr. Harris is one of the many skilled emergency department physicians at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center.

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