Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, silent killer. CO is a gas that when breathed in, replaces oxygen carried by red blood cells, preventing your cells, tissues and organs from getting the essential oxygen needed to function. With the first cold snap of the year, many people start up their furnaces for the first time since the previous winter, increasing the risk for CO poisoning. However, CO poisoning can be caused by any gas or oil burning appliance or device. Hot water heaters and portable space heaters that use gas or oil can also cause CO poisoning.
Symptoms of CO Poisoning
How do you know if you might be experiencing CO poisoning? Here are the common symptoms to look for:
Headache Dizziness or light-headedness Nausea Vomiting Difficulty breathing or feeling short of breath without exertion Blurred vision Confusion Seizures Loss of consciousness Coma
Pets are often the first to show signs of CO poisoning, such as erratic movement, difficulty walking, labored breathing, vomiting, seizures, sudden deafness and coma. If you notice these signs in your pet and/or any of the above symptoms in people in the household, urgently exit the home with all people and pets and call emergency services. The fire department can test your home for CO and gas leaks in an emergency situation.
Preventing CO Poisoning
The first and most important way to protect yourself and your family (including animal family members) is to always have working CO detectors. CO detectors can be battery powered or hard-wired with a battery back-up. Test and check CO detectors at least monthly and replace the batteries in all detector units at least once per year, more often if the unit signals that it has a low battery. If the alarm on one or more of your CO detectors sounds, immediately evacuate the home with all people and pets.The second important way to prevent CO poisoning is to have your gas or oil burning furnace inspected, tested and properly maintained at least once per year, preferably before the first use in the fall/winter. Inspections can find cracks or leaking seals and other issues that could result in CO poisoning in your home. Additionally, have hot water heaters and any other appliance that uses gas in your home inspected and serviced at least once per year.Never leave your vehicle idling in the garage, even if the door is open. Also, never use portable generators inside the garage or your home. Consider switching any space heaters to electric units to avoid CO poisoning from kerosene space heaters.
Now is the time to call Carolina Comfort Systems to have your oil or gas furnace inspected and maintained - before the cold comes rolling in. Keeping your system properly maintained helps keep your family safe from silent and deadly carbon monoxide.