studio shot of carbon monoxide detector

In 2015, poison centers were consulted about almost 14,400 carbon monoxide exposures. Most exposures were reported in the colder months, between November and March.

As temperatures across the country drop, many of us will start up our fireplaces, fire up the generators if the power goes out, and gas up our snow blowers. What do these things have in common? They all generate carbon monoxide (CO), a very dangerous odorless and colorless gas.

When you breathe in carbon monoxide, your brain and heart don’t get enough oxygen. Early symptoms may feel like having the flu. Some symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, feeling tired, having trouble breathing, upset stomach and vomiting. If you breathe in enough CO you could have trouble thinking, have a heart attack, go into a coma or even die.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hundreds of Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized each year.

Poison Prevention Tips:

  • Install CO detectors in your home and check or replace the batteries regularly.
  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage and put the generator more than 15 to 20 feet from your house and your neighbors’ houses.
  • Have your home’s heating system and chimneys inspected regularly to ensure proper ventilation.
  • Clear your outdoor heating vents after a snowfall. Also be sure your vehicle’s tailpipe is clear before starting it.
  • Do not leave your car running in a garage, even with the garage door open.

If your carbon monoxide alarm is going off, or if you think you have breathed in carbon monoxide:

  • Get to fresh air right away
  • Call 911 or your local fire department
  • Contact the poison center for first aid advice while waiting for the fire department to arrive. Call 1-800-222-1222 or text POISON to 85511.

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