Carbon Monoxide Silent Killer - How to Save a Life With Home Protection

Nov 9 2015 - 11:21am
Carbon Monoxide Alarm

It’s that time of year again. Temperatures are dropping and we’re turning up the heat. One danger is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning which has been called the “silent killer” for good reason. But, did you know there are many other sources of CO that can kill you - including tobacco smoke?

The CDC estimates that approximately 500 people die from unintentional CO exposure in the United States every year and estimates that 8,000 to 15,000 people each year are treated for CO poisoning. Your pets are susceptible too. I once had a parrot die from CO poisoning. The good news is that carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented with simple actions such as installing a CO alarm and maintaining fuel burning appliances.

Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas that binds to hemoglobin in the bloodstream effectively and efficiently choking a cells ability to carry vital oxygen causing serious tissue damage and brain injury. The symptoms are much like the flu – fatigue, dizziness, mild headache, breathlessness and nausea so don’t assume you’ve picked up a virus. With continued exposure symptoms become more severe and may progress to confusion, irritability, impaired judgment and coordination, loss of consciousness, and death.

While we most often hear of tragedies related to malfunctioning heating systems in an enclosed area, what most people don’t realize is CO poisoning is not restricted to inside your home or place of employment. Just recently there were three deaths that occurred in the same hotel room in in Boone, North Carolina due to elevated CO levels, however, according to officials, the source of the gas is unknown.

You can tell the difference between CO poisoning and the flu with these clues:

• You feel better when you are away from home
• Everyone is the home is sick at the same time (the flu is typically passed from person to person)
• The family members most effected spend the most time in the house
• Indoor pets appear ill
• You don’t have a fever or body aches, and you don’t have swollen lymph nodes that are common with the flu and some other infections
• Symptoms appear or seem to get worse when using fuel-burning equipment

Who is at greater risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning

Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide levels of about 1 to 70 parts per million usually doesn't result in symptoms, although some heart patients may feel increased chest pain, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Headache, fatigue and nausea may occur when carbon monoxide levels increase and stay above 70 parts per million. Greater danger occurs above 150 to 200 parts per million.

People with respiratory conditions, such as asthma or emphysema, cardiovascular disease, anemia or sickle cell anemia are more at risk and may exhibit symptoms sooner than a healthy individual.
The elderly, young children and some pets such as birds or animals that are trying to get warm are at a greater risk for CO poisoning than adults. Individuals engaging in strenuous activity have also been found to be at greater risk. Remember, ANYONE can become sick and die from CO poisoning when exposed to very high levels.

If you have any of these symptoms, go outside and get fresh air immediately! if you believe you are experiencing any of these symptoms call the fire department. See a doctor immediately so that he or she can confirm carbon monoxide poisoning. Severe cases require treatment with hyperbaric oxygen therapy and supportive care in an intensive care unit.

What are sources of CO exposure?
• Furnaces or boilers
• Gas stoves and ovens
• Fireplaces, both gas and wood burning
• Kerosene burning stoves
• Water heaters
• Clothes dryers
• Wood stoves
• Power generators
• Motor vehicles including boats and recreational vehicles
• Automobile exhaust from attached garages
• Power tools and lawn equipment
• Tobacco smoke