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How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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Follow these best practices to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning at home.

You can’t see it. You can’t smell it. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer that can invade almost any home or vehicle without warning.

Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 430 people die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Approximately 50,000 more visit the emergency department in a hospital for the same reason.

Here’s how to keep yourself and your family safe and avoid becoming a statistic.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide can be generated almost any time combustion is taking place. That means it can be found in fumes produced by furnaces, kerosene heaters, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges, and portable generators. CO is also produced by burning charcoal or wood. Warming up a vehicle in an enclosed space, such as a garage, causes CO poisoning every year.

Symptoms of CO Poisoning

Not everyone will have the same symptoms of CO poisoning. People who are asleep or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning without experiencing any symptoms. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion

How to Prevent CO Poisoning

CO poisoning is completely preventable by following these tips from the CDC:

  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home, including the master bedroom. Check or change the batteries in your CO detectors every six months, or when Daylight Saving Time begins and ends.
  • Have a qualified technician service your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil or coal-burning appliances every year.
  • Keep vents and flues free of debris. Debris can block ventilation lines.
  • Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.
  • Never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area.
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, or portable camping stove inside a home, tent or camper.
  • Never run a generator, pressure washer or any gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage or other enclosed structure, even if the doors or windows are open.

If you suspect CO poisoning, call 911 or a health care professional right away. Get outside; open windows and doors to air out your home if possible.

The CDC has more information on how to protect yourself and everyone in your home from carbon monoxide poisoning here.

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