Carbon monoxide can be a silent killer – it is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. The CDC reports that about 430 people die each year from this and over 50,000 go to the ER. Mild carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include nausea, headaches, and dizziness. Severe cases can cause heart damage, brain damage, and death. This gas can be produced when any material containing carbon (wood, coal, kerosene, natural gas, gasoline, propane, or charcoal) is burned. Because so many appliances within the home rely on these materials to run, carbon monoxide poisoning is something you need to know about.
Here are the most common sources of carbon monoxide poisoning (as reported by Johns Hopkins):
- Space heaters – unvented or improperly vented
- Malfunctioning furnace (oil, wood, gas, or coal)
- Malfunctioning cooking appliances
- Malfunctioning water heater
- Clogged chimney
- Auto exhaust
Carbon monoxide prevents your body from being able to use oxygen efficiently. Your brain is deprived of oxygen and your body begins to asphyxiate, or suffocate.
Because carbon monoxide is odorless, tasteless, and colorless, it can be very hard to detect. If you know what to be on the lookout for, it could save a life and reduce a severe poisoning to a mild one. Here are some symptoms to watch for:
- Rapid heart beat
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Cardiac arrest
- Blurry vision
- Loss of hearing
- Respiratory failure
What to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning is happening:
- Act QUICKLY – even just 5 minutes of exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can result in death.
- Immediately take the person who has been poisoned outside into fresh air. If you cannot move the person, try to air out the space as quickly as possible by opening windows and doors.
- Open all the windows and exterior doors to air the space out.
- Turn off any appliances that are running, that could be the source of the carbon monoxide – furnace, gas stove, boiler, water heater, etc.
- Take those that were exposed to the emergency room as quickly as possible. Even if someone isn’t showing signs of CO poisoning, they should still go and get checked out by a doctor. A blood test will be able to tell if the individual was poisoned and this will help medical personnel to provide better, more accurate care.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be life-threatening and many times it is difficult to detect early. The best way to protect against it is to take preventative measures.
Make sure your appliances are in good shape and have regular maintenance completed on your HVAC system and furnace. Consider installing carbon monoxide detectors within your home. Working with a certified HVAC company will ensure that your system is running safely and efficiently, reducing the chances of a carbon monoxide problem stemming from there. If you purchase a furnace or furnace system with Weather Crafters, we will include a carbon monoxide detector for free. Our goal is to help keep our clients and their loved ones safe and comfortable. Get in touch with our team to schedule your next HVAC maintenance visit so one of our technicians can come out and take a good look at your current system.