Every year hundreds of people in the United States die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Keeping your family safe this winter can be as easy as installing a working carbon monoxide alarm. Alarms should be battery-operated or have battery backup and be placed in or close to sleeping areas. Additional alarms placed on every level and in every bedroom of a home can provide extra protection. Battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms should be tested monthly and batteries should be replaced according to the manufacturer’s instructions or when batteries are low.
Having a working carbon monoxide alarm is necessary to keep you and your family safe from carbon monoxide. Without an operating carbon monoxide alarm, people may be poisoned in their sleep and never wake up.
There is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when fuel-burning appliances, equipment or heating systems are not working properly. (Electric appliances and electric heating systems do not produce carbon monoxide.) If the appliances and equipment do not function as they should, have worn parts, or are not vented the right way, there is a great risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It is important to have properly installed and working appliances and heating systems:
- Have appliances and heating systems installed by a professional.
- Have your furnace and chimney cleaned by professionals once a year before heating season.
Other important safety tips to remember:
- Never leave a car running in a garage, even with the garage door open.
- Only use a generator outside, at least 15 feet away from the home (20-25 feet is better).
- Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, closed-in porch, vehicle or tent.
Carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from being carried in the blood. Carbon monoxide poisoning begins with flu-like systems, including headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. If you suspect you have been exposed to carbon monoxide:
- Get to fresh air right away.
- Call 911 or the local fire department.
- Call the Northern New England Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.
The Northern New England Poison Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-222-1222. It is a free, confidential call. TTY and language interpretation services are available.
Gayle Finkelstein is the Northern New England Poison Center Vermont Educator, and Poison Outreach Educator at the UVM Medical Center’s Community Health Improvement Office.