This is the time of year when accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning happens the most. For families in cold climates or dealing with disasters such as flooding, tornados or loss of electricity for long periods of time, gasoline powered generators or heaters can be a godsend. But they also require special care to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless toxic gas that is a product of the incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels. Unintentional carbon monoxide poisonings accounted for approximately 400 to 500 deaths (all ages) and more than 15,000 emergency department visits in the United States annually according to the AAP Council on Environmental Health.
Proper installation and maintenance for the use of combustion appliances can help to reduce excessive carbon monoxide emissions along with carbon monoxide detectors.
Many non-fires related CO poisonings come from automobiles left running in a closed garage- sending toxic fumes into the house.
Other ways carbon monoxide poisoning occurs may surprise you. Improperly maintained chimneys and flues can crack and leave a buildup that causes problems with venting CO fumes. Wood stoves that are not fitted correctly can leak CO into living rooms and bedrooms. Kerosene heaters reduce oxygen in rooms. They require good ventilation to operate safely. Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide can be emitted from improper use of kerosene heaters. These fumes become toxic in large quantities and put vulnerable individuals at risk, such as pregnant women, asthmatics, people with cardiovascular disease, the elderly, and young children. Charcoal grills put off an enormous amount of CO; they should never be used indoors.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidance for protecting families from CO poisoning with these tips:
• Forced-air furnaces should be checked by a professional once a year or as recommended by the manufacturer. Pilot lights can produce carbon monoxide and should be kept in good working order.
• All fuel-burning appliances (eg, gas water heaters, gas stoves, gas clothes dryers) should be checked professionally once a year or as recommended by the manufacturer.
• Gas cooking stove tops and ovens should not be used for supplemental heat.
Fireplaces and Woodstoves
• Fireplaces and woodstoves should be checked professionally once a year or as recommended by the manufacturer. Check to ensure the flue is open during operation. Proper use, inspection, and maintenance of vent-free fireplaces (and space heaters) are recommended.
• Fuel-burning space heaters should be checked professionally once a year or as recommended by the manufacturer.
• Space heaters should be properly vented during use, according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
• Barbecue grills and hibachis should never be used indoors.
• Barbecue grills and hibachis should never be used in poorly ventilated spaces such as garages, campers, and tents.
Automobiles/Other Motor Vehicles
• Regular inspection and maintenance of the vehicle exhaust system are recommended. Many states have vehicle inspection programs to ensure this practice.
• Never leave an automobile running in the garage or other enclosed space; Carbon monoxide can accumulate even when a garage door is open.
Generators/Other Fuel-Powered Equipment
• Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when operating generators and other fuel-powered equipment.
• Never operate a generator indoors or near an open window when the generator is outdoors.
• Be aware that carbon monoxide poisoning can mimic symptoms of seasickness.
• Schedule regular engine and exhaust system maintenance.
• Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector in the accommodation space on the boat.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can mimic other illnesses – so it’s good to be aware of the symptoms, especially if you have any of the heating sources or gasoline powered motors mentioned above.
Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:
Nausea or vomiting
Shortness of breath
Loss of consciousness
The symptoms may be subtle, but the condition is life threatening. If you suspect CO poisoning, seek emergency medical care immediately and make sure your child is getting fresh air as soon as possible.
Story sources: https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Children-and-Disasters/Pages/Protecting-Children-from-Carbon-Monoxide-Poisoning.aspx