Carbon monoxide, often dubbed as “The Quiet Killer,” is a colorless and odorless gas that can be deadly. When carbon monoxide (CO) builds up indoors, it often goes undetected and poisons whoever breathes it in. CO is present in fumes, such as in fuel from cars, gas ranges, grills and furnaces. When the weather outside is cold, people use their gas furnaces and heaters more often, which means carbon monoxide poisoning can be more prevalent during winter months. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, and more than 20,000 Americans visit the emergency room each year for CO poisoning.
Ways to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The good news is carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable. The CDC shares these easy ways, among others, to help prevent CO poisoning in your home:
Install a battery-operated CO detector and check the batteries every six months. Completely replace the detector every five years.
Have any gas appliances serviced by a licensed technician every year. This includes your heating system, water heater and any gas-, oil- and coal-burning appliances.
Make sure gas appliances are vented properly.
Consult with a professional to check and clean your chimney every year. A blocked chimney can cause CO to build up in a home.
Don’t leave a gas range or oven on to heat the home.
Never burn charcoal indoors.
Never use a generator indoors, in garages or less than 20 feet from doors, vents and windows.
Have a mechanic check the exhaust system of your car every year for any leaks.
Don’t let your car run inside a garage even if the garage door is open.
Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Since CO poisoning is hard to detect, the best way to prevent it is with the tips above. However, knowing the symptoms of CO poisoning is also important in detecting the presence of CO. According to the CDC, the most common symptoms are:
If you suspect or detect a carbon monoxide leak, get outside to fresh air immediately and call 911.
Taking these steps can help prevent CO poisoning and can also help ensure you and your family stay safe during these colder months. And, remember, when using heat appliances like gas ranges and space heaters, fire safety and prevention are just as important.
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Reference to specific commercial products, manufacturers, companies, or trademarks does not constitute its endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. Government, Department of Health and Human Services, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.