(WHTM) – With temperatures now starting to drop, that means more people will be turning on the heat in their homes or apartments. But some heating systems harbor a hidden danger: carbon monoxide.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas. Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, wood, propane and charcoal are burned. Car engines and some household appliances also produce this gas.
Why is carbon monoxide dangerous?
This gas is extremely harmful and can cause poisoning. According to the Mayo Clinic, carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when the gas builds up in the blood. In this case, the body replaces the oxygen in red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This can lead to serious health problems and even death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Each year, approximately 420 people die from accidental CO poisoning, and each year approximately 100,000 people are admitted to the emergency room due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide can be present in many different methods of heating your home or car. The gas is found in certain stoves, kerosene heaters, vehicles warmed up in garages, stoves, lanterns, and other heating devices and appliances. When carbon monoxide builds up in enclosed spaces, the people or animals inside can die from inhaling too much of the gas.
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Some also reported feeling flu-like symptoms as well.
It also notes that people who are sleeping or have been drinking alcohol can suffer brain damage or die from carbon monoxide poisoning before realizing they have symptoms.
How can you protect yourself from carbon monoxide?
Some tips to protect you and your family from carbon monoxide include:
- Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home and consider purchasing one with a digital display. Check and replace the battery when changing clocks in spring and fall
- Make sure your heating system is serviced annually. Also ensure that any other gas, oil or coal-fired appliances are maintained.
- Never use portable, flameless chemical heaters indoors or heat cars indoors.
- If you are running a gas-powered generator, make sure it is in a well-ventilated area or completely outdoors.
- Make sure all vents are clear of debris to allow gas to escape.
If you think you or someone has been poisoned, call 911 immediately.