Utah’s winter months include many things: snow, hot cocoa, festive lights and if you’re lucky, a visit from Santa. With all you have going on this time of year, don’t forget to add carbon monoxide safety to your to-do list — and check it twice.
As winter approaches, the risk for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning increases. Understanding some basic information will help keep you and your family safe.
What is CO?
CO is an odorless, invisible gas produced when gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene and other fuels are not completely burned during use. Automobile exhaust is the most common source of CO, but small gas engines, camp lanterns and stoves, charcoal grills, gas ranges, and furnaces also produce it.
When appliances and furnaces are improperly adjusted and used in poorly ventilated areas, dangerous amounts of CO can build up in the blood, replacing oxygen and may cause asphyxiation.
How do I know if I have CO poisoning?
While anyone can fall victim to CO poisoning, those with respiratory problems, infants and the elderly are at a higher risk. Last year in Utah, more than 200 people visited the emergency room and two people died as a result of CO poisoning.
Because you can’t see or smell CO, it’s important to know symptoms of possible poisoning. The most common are:
- Persistent, severe headaches and dizziness usually affecting more than one person in an enclosed area.
- Nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
- The symptoms go away when individuals leave the home or structure.
What can I do to prevent CO poisoning?
You can do several things to prevent CO poisoning. These simple precautions are easy and inexpensive:
- Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas-, oil-, wood- or coal-burning appliances serviced by a licensed technician every year.
- Install a CO monitor on each level of your home. Check and replace the batteries when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
- If you own a boat or recreational vehicle with propane stoves or heaters, install CO detectors and be sure to keep fresh batteries in them.
- Inspect homes after heavy snowfall and make sure snow is removed from around exhaust stacks, vents and fresh-air intakes.
- Do not use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline- or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window. Generators should be located at least 20 feet from an occupied structure.
- Do not run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
- If your CO monitor alarms continuously, evacuate your home and call 911 or your local natural gas utility. If the alarm is only intermittent, change the batteries.
- Do not heat your house with a gas oven.
- Do not burn anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented.
- Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and feel dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.
While CO poisoning is more common in the winter, it can happen any time of the year.
If you suspect the presence of CO, evacuate immediately and call 911 or the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. To report a gas leak, leave the area and call Dominion Energy at 1-800-767-1689.