National Poison Prevention Week: Carbon Monoxide Facts You Need to Know

March 19th marked the beginning of a very important yet often overlooked week: National Poison Prevention Week. In 2014, U.S. poison control centers answered nearly 2.2 million calls from people needing guidance on poison exposure. We most often associate poison with cleaning products and drug-related products, however, there is another type of poison plaguing homes everywhere: carbon monoxide.

This colorless, odorless and tasteless gas offers mercy to no one, hence its alternate name “the Silent Killer.” According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), each year 430 people die and approximately 50,000 people visit the emergency room due to CO poisoning. There are measures you can take to prevent CO poisoning from happening. Because this type of gas is literally out of sight, it’s easy for it to also be out of mind. But don’t let that happen! Safeguard your loved ones by following these carbon monoxide poison prevention tips!

Why is CO dangerous?

We all know that carbon monoxide is dangerous, but have you ever wondered why that’s the case? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) puts it in terms that can be easily understood. When inhaled, carbon monoxide “displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the brain and other vital organs of oxygen.” As humans, we need oxygen to live. When breathing is obstructed, numerous problems can occur.

Small amounts of CO might not cause that much harm to your body, but when inhaled in large amounts, it can cause you to lose consciousness or suffocate. Other side effects include:

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusing
  • Muscle Weakness

Because symptoms may vary from person to person, you may experience only a few side effects. If you have a health condition, side effects may appear sooner. You’re particularly vulnerable if:

  • You’re a young child.
  • You’re elderly
  • You have a lung or heart disease.
  • You’re at a high altitude.
  • You’re a smoker.

If you are pregnant, your fetus is also at risk. No matter your condition, if you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, seek medical attention immediately. If you receive proper medical care in a timely manner, the poisoning can often be reversed. However, depending on the severity of the poisoning, you may experience permanent damage to areas that require high levels of oxygen such as the brain and heart. In some cases, it can also effect your reproductive organs.

Steps You Can Take to Prevent CO Poisoning

This gas may seem invincible since it’s colorless and odorless, but rest assured that there are ways to prevent poisoning. The CDC has provided a list of precautions for you to follow at home:

  • Do not heat your home using a gas range or oven.
  • Do not park your car in a closed, or even partially closed, garage while it’s running.
  • Do not run generators, pressure washers or gasoline-powered appliances in basements, garages or enclosed areas, even if a window or door is open. The only time it’s safe to run these in the specified areas is when they have been professionally installed and vented.
  • Make sure your vents and flues are free of debris.
  • Do not use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern or portable camping stove inside a home, tent or camper.

Install Adequate CO Detectors:

If carbon monoxide is present in your home, you need to know as soon as possible so that you can leave the premise in a timely manner and follow the necessary protocols, like seeking medical help. CO detectors are an effective way to prevent poisoning from occurring. With National Poison Prevention Week being fresh in your mind, schedule an appointment with a licensed HVAC professional to have adequate CO detectors installed in your home. If you already have detectors installed, make sure they’re working properly.

Here are some helpful tips from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on installing detectors:

  • Install detectors outside each sleeping area and on every level of the house. The best practice is to interconnect all detectors so that when one goes off, it triggers the others to do the same.
  • Read your manufacturer’s guide on instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • Purchase a detector that’s been tested by a recognized laboratory.
  • Test your detectors once every month to ensure they’re working properly. If there’s a chirping sound indicating the batteries are low on power, change the batteries immediately.
  • Install new detectors every 5-7 years.

How to Treat CO Poisoning:

Listen to your gut.  When it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s better to play it safe than to wait and see.  Leave the premise immediately and seek medical attention. This isn’t something you want to deal with on your own, as the result of CO poisoning can be extremely damaging to your health.

To find out what you can do during National Poison Prevention Week to make your home more safe, check out Poison Help.

For information or assistance with HVAC efficiency, give Interstate Heating & Air Conditioning a call at 405-794-8900.

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