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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Risk Rises During Winter and Travel.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say half of all reported cases of carbon monoxide poisoning occur during the winter.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Over two dozen people have been hospitalized across the United States while vacationing and two Allen Benedict Court residence died last year because of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is known as a silent killer. You cannot see carbon monoxide (CO), the gas has no smell or taste and usually there is no warning sound. Bottomline, people and animals cannot tell when they are breathing in carbon monoxide gas and it can kill you.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about fifty thousand people visit the emergency room and over four hundred people die each year from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. About half of all reported cases of carbon monoxide poisoning occur during the winter.

Why do carbon monoxide poisoning cases rise during the winter months?  

Carbon monoxide mainly comes from gas appliances and heating systems. Other sources include portable gas generators, leave and snow-blocked car tailpipes, heating and dryer vents, portable room heaters, fireplace or chimney flues and malfunctioning heating systems for indoor swimming pools and hot tubs.

What are some signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Poison control experts say recognizing carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is more challenging in the winter. Poison symptoms often mimic viral illnesses like the common cold and flu. Low-level exposure can produce headaches, sleepiness, fatigue, confusion and irritability. At higher levels, it can cause nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, impaired vision and coordination and can be life threatening.

How can people reduce their risk of carbon monoxide poisoning?

To minimize risk, keep household appliances in good wording condition and use them as recommended. Do not use gas ranges, ovens or charcoal burning devices to heat your home camper or tent.

Clear leaves, snow or any debris from heating and dryer vents and car tailpipes. Do not idle your car in the garage and be careful of remote start engines that could turn on by mistake. Periodically inspect your chimneys and heating systems to prevent blockages and open flues when using your fireplace. Only use generators outside, placed more than 20 feet away from all structures and openings., camper or tent.

A carbon monoxide detector can save your life. The CDC recommends that every home have one on every floor.

Travelers are especially at risk due to varying regulations on carbon monoxide (CO) alarms across states. When making room reservations, the CDC says to ask about the accommodation’s CO detector policies, including detector locations. When staying in hotels, apartments or people’s homes, the CDC also recommends picking up a portable battery-operated alarm and to take with you on vacation.

What should you look for when buying a carbon monoxide detector?

There are many options to choose from and you can also purchase detectors on-line. However, not all devices are created equal. Some devices are more sensitive than others and are better at sensing and detecting carbon monoxide.

Consumer Reports say to make sure the detector has a “UL” label on the package. This indicates the detector has the “Underwriters Laboratories” stamp of approval.

Also look for the date it was manufactured. Detectors lose their sensitivity over time. You want to make sure the device will pick up carbon monoxide, alarm, and protect you. The fresher the alarm the better it can sense gas in the air.

As a rule of thumb, consumer reports recommends replacing carbon monoxide detectors every five years.

What should you do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning?

 CO poisoning should be handled as a medical emergency.

The first step is to move away from the possible source of CO gas.  If you feel ill, go outside to fresh air. You should start to feel better once you are away from the source of the gas.

Do not go back inside to the source of the gas. Instead if you suspect carbon monoxide gas, get help immediately and contact your doctor or local poison control local poison control center [800-222-1222].

If someone is unconscious, not breathing, hard to wake up or seizing, call 911 first, then contact poison control for further assistance.

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