Most people have at least heard of carbon monoxide poisoning, and may even have installed detectors in their house. However, many people don’t know much beyond the fact that carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that can build up in houses. Carbon monoxide, or CO, is created when different fuels are burnt, but not burnt completely. Propane, natural gas, wood, coal, charcoal, oil, and kerosene can all cause the gas to build up. Internal combustion engines, such as generators and cars also produce it.
While carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with only 170 people dying of it every year from non automotive sources, it’s entirely preventable. Several thousand people have to go to the emergency room every year for carbon monoxide poisoning.
What Can I Do?
The first thing anyone should do is make sure to install a CO alarm that meets all safety standards. There should be an alarm near any sleeping areas and they must not be covered by fabrics or furniture. After that, the best thing you can do is to make sure that your appliances are installed correctly. Always make sure to have a professional take care of your HVAC appliances, as they are the most likely to cause a CO buildup in your home.
You should also regularly have your appliances inspected and serviced by an HVAC professional every year. Do not attempt to service your equipment on your own, as that can cause CO buildup in your home.
What are the Symptoms?
The reason installing a CO alarm in your house is so important is because it is impossible to detect carbon monoxide without one. The gas is entirely colorless and odorless, meaning you could be exposed and not even know it. The early symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and shortness of breath. Extreme exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to loss of consciousness, mental confusion, vomiting, loss of coordination, and possibly death.
What If My Alarm Goes Off?
The moment your CO alarm goes off, you need to move outside and call 911. Do not re-enter the building for any reason until cleared by the emergency team.
Keeping your HVAC appliances properly serviced is the first step towards preventing CO poisoning in your home, but it can still happen to anyone. Make sure your alarms are properly set up at all times.