Health Beat: Preventative steps to stop carbon monoxide poisoning

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Daylight Saving Time ends Sunday. As you prepare to set your clocks back one hour, remember to change the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector.

If you don't have a battery-powered or battery backup carbon monoxide alarm, now is a great time to buy one. More than 450 people die each year in the U.S. from unintentional, non-fire related carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is found in fumes produced by furnaces, vehicles, portable generators, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges or burning charcoal or wood. Carbon monoxide from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing carbon monoxide.

When power outages occur during emergencies such as hurricanes or winter storms, the use of alternative sources of power for heating, cooling or cooking can cause carbon monoxide to build up in a home, garage or camper and to poison the people and animals inside.

How to recognize carbon monoxide poisoning

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before ever having symptoms.

You can prevent carbon monoxide exposure

* Do have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.

* Do install a battery-operated or battery backup carbon monoxide detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds, leave your home immediately and call 911.

* Do seek prompt medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and are feeling dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous.

* Don't use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement or garage or near a window.

* Don't run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.

* Don't burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn't vented.

* Don't heat your house with a gas oven.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is entirely preventable. You can protect yourself and your family by acting wisely in case of a power outage and learning the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

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