Carbon monoxide (CO) has no distinct odor, color or taste. It is the “silent killer.” There is no way to know it is around until you start to feel sick or a carbon monoxide detector in your home goes off. CO is found in fumes produced anytime you burn fuel in cars or trucks, stoves, lanterns, fireplaces, water heaters or furnaces.
SYMPTOMS OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
The symptoms are not always obvious, particularly during low level exposure. A tension type headache is the most common symptom. Others include dizziness, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, shortness of breath and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” If you breathe in a lot of CO, it can make you pass out or even cause death.
CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
Install a battery operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home. Each spring and fall test the detector, check the battery and replace if necessary. Ensure that you have detectors on all floors. Place the detector where it will wake you up if it alarms, such as outside the bedroom. Consider buying a detector with a digital readout. This type will tell you the highest level of CO concentration in addition to alarming.
OTHER PREVENTION TECHNIQUES AND SAFEGUARDS
Have the operation of your water heater and furnace serviced once a year, paying particular attention to the burners and the venting. Don’t forget your chimney. It can become blocked by debris and cause CO to build up in your home. Never use gas ranges to heat your home, use over-sized pots or place foil around the burners.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR CAR?
Have a mechanic check the exhaust system of your car every year. A small leak in the exhaust system can lead to a build-up of CO inside the car. Never run your car inside an attached garage even with the door open. Always open the door to a detached garage to let in fresh air when you run a car inside.
IF YOU SUSPECT CARBON MONOXIDE IS PRESENT OR YOU SMELL GAS IN YOUR HOME
Get out of the house. Call the gas company or 911.
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