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The Silent Killer: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The Mayo Clinic defines carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning as “an illness caused by exposure to too much carbon monoxide” – a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas.

Too much carbon monoxide in the air you breathe can greatly diminish your ability to absorb oxygen, leading to serious tissue damage. Carbon monoxide is produced as a bi-product of appliances used when heating your home during the cold months or using alternative power sources, such as generators, during a power outage.

Due to this need for added warmth, January has become the deadliest month for carbon monoxide poisoning and is largely due to unintentional or accidental carbon monoxide exposure. Unintentional carbon monoxide exposure becomes dangerous when carbon monoxide begins to accumulate in a contained or poorly ventilated space.

Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can be subtle but should be treated as a medical emergency. Seek treatment immediately, if someone has been exposed to carbon monoxide and is experiencing:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • light-headedness

Safety Tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning as recommended by Poison Control:

  • Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal-burning appliance inspected and serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Install battery-operated CO detectors on every level of your home.
  • Do not use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside the home, basement, garage, or outside the home near a window.
  • Do not burn anything in an unvented stove or fireplace.
  • Do not let a vehicle idle inside a garage attached to a house, even if the garage door is left open.
  • Do not heat a house with a gas oven.
  • If a CO detector sounds, leave your home immediately and call 911 from outside. Seek prompt medical attention, if you suspect CO poisoning and if you or someone in your household is feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.