There may be something missing from your happy home. Because carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless gas, your family may be exposed to it and you wouldn’t even know. Many of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to other seasonal illnesses, such as influenza. These symptoms include shortness of breath, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and confusion. It can be very difficult to diagnose carbon monoxide poisoning, but a battery operated or an electric carbon monoxide detector with battery-back up can alert your family to a potentially life threatening event.
Here are some tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on how to reduce your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home:
- Never leave a car running in an attached garage even with the garage door open.
- Never run a generator in the home, garage, or crawlspace.
- When running a generator outdoors, keep it away from open windows and doors.
- Never burn charcoal in homes, tents, vehicles, or garages.
- Never install or service combustion appliances without proper knowledge, skills, and tools.
- Never use a gas range, oven, or dryer for heating.
- Never put foil on bottom of a gas oven because it interferes with combustion.
- Never operate an unvented gas-burning appliance in a closed room or in a room in which you are sleeping
Even if you abide by these tips, your family may still be at risk. The best thing to do to keep your family safe is to have working carbon monoxide, also called CO monitors, on every level of the home, especially near all sleeping areas. Just like a fire drill, you should talk to your family about what to do if your carbon monoxide detector alarms. You may want to include your neighbors, so you can count on each other for support if you hear yours alarm, especially at night.
- Get out of the house immediately to fresh air. If it’s very cold out, seek shelter at a neighbor’s house. Never attempt to find the cause of the leak on your own.
- Call 911 once outside of the home. The fire department will check the house and let you know when it’s safe to return.
- Seek medical treatment if you have any of the symptoms; pregnant women, infants and those with chronic medical conditions are especially vulnerable.
According to the Center for Disease Control, “Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to CO poisoning.” Don’t let your family be part of this statistic! Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector that you test often!
—Erica Surman, RN, BSN, Pediatric Trauma Program Manager, Beaumont Health System