Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Are You At Risk?

When you have the house all closed up for the winter, worrying about carbon monoxide poisoning may be the last thing on your mind especially with the upcoming winter festivities. However, if you are constantly using your gas appliances or fireplace, you should be aware of the dangers of CO poisoning and how to protect yourself and your family.

What is Carbon Monoxide and Why is it Poisonous?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a gas that is produced when fuels in cars, fireplaces, stoves and other appliances are burned. Because the gas is colorless and odorless, it can accumulate in a room or a home without anyone knowing. Without a CO detector, you may not realize that CO levels have become dangerous until it is too late.

Normally, the oxygen you breathe in with every breath binds to the hemoglobin in your red blood cells. When you breathe in CO and oxygen, however, the CO has a much easier time binding to the hemoglobin than oxygen. As the CO levels increase, the amount of oxygen your body receives decreases. This could eventually lead to hypoxia, or oxygen starvation. If those affected do not receive medical attention, they could suffer brain damage or even die.

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What are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

At first, the symptoms are similar to the flu. A person suffering from CO poisoning may experience nausea, vomiting, anxiety and even depression. The person may feel extremely tired and may feel like falling asleep. As the levels become more concentrated, the symptoms can include severe headaches, dizziness and extreme confusion. Low level exposure over a long period of time can potentially lead to damage to internal organs while high levels can become fatal within several minutes.

While every person is at risk for CO poisoning, infants, young children and the elderly are most likely to be affected first. Those who also have anemia, heart disease and breathing difficulties are also more at risk. These individuals are also more likely to be negatively affected by low levels of CO even when other adults may not suffer any symptoms.


Protecting Yourself Against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

One of the best ways to protect yourself against CO poisoning is to ensure that you have a working CO alarm. Some of the alarms will alert you when the levels become elevated while other alarms will actually tell you how much CO is present in the air you are breathing. It is recommended that you install alarms in rooms where CO is likely to be found, including rooms that have gas appliances and fireplaces. If you store your vehicle in your garage, installing a CO alarm there can also be helpful.


What To Do When CO Levels Become Elevated

If our CO alarm goes off, do not ignore the alarm even if you do not have any of the symptoms. These alarms are designed to go off before you begin to feel ill, so you should act with caution. Silence the alarm and then make sure all of your family members are out of the home or building. You may also wish to open windows to ventilate the area. Turn off any appliances that could be causing the elevated CO levels. If it is possible, you may want to stay elsewhere until a professional can be called to fix the problem.


Stay Safe This Winter

Keeping yourself and your family safe with a CO alarm and an understanding of the symptoms will help you ensure that you’ll have a happy, healthy winter. You can even potentially prevent a tragedy during one of your most favorite times of the year.

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