Medical Tips for the Month – May – Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled. When power outages occur during natural disasters and other emergencies, the use of alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating or cooking can cause CO to build up in a home, garage, or camper and to poison the people and animals inside.

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The following items may produce carbon monoxide:

  • Anything that burns coal, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, or wood
  • Automobile engines
  • Charcoal grills (charcoal should never be burned indoors)
  • Indoor and portable heating systems
  • Portable propane heaters
  • Stoves (indoor and camp stoves)
  • Water heater that use natural gas

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.

When you breathe in carbon monoxide, the poison replaces the oxygen in your bloodstream. Your heart, brain, and body will become starved of oxygen.

Symptoms vary from person to person. Those at high risk include young children, the elderly, persons with lung or heart disease, people at high altitudes, and smokers. Carbon monoxide can harm a fetus (unborn baby still in the womb).

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:

  • Breathing problems, including no breathing, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing
  • Chest pain (may occur suddenly in people with angina)
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Headache
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impaired judgment
  • Irritability
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Rapid or abnormal heart beat
  • Shock
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unconsciousness

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 back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each springco_location and fall. If the detector sounds leave your home immediately and call 911.
  • Do seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, 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.