Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced by the incomplete burning of any carbon-containing material, like gasoline, natural gas, propane, coal or wood. CO is dangerous. It replaces oxygen in the blood and interferes with the transport of needed oxygen to cells in the body. It is deadly, and since symptoms often come on like other illnesses, they may be ignored. It’s important to educate yourself on carbon monoxide safety.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
Everyone, including pets are at risk; however, young children, the elderly, and those with heart or lung problems are particularly vulnerable. Low levels can cause flu-like symptoms, such as nausea and headache, as well as shortness of breath. Moderate levels can cause dizziness and light-headedness. High levels of CO can be fatal within minutes of exposure. Carbon monoxide can be present even if you’re not experiencing any symptoms. So when you hear the alarm, you should take action regardless of how everyone in your household feels.
What to do if you suspect CO poisoning
If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning and people and pets in your home aren’t feeling well, it’s best to evacuate. Leave the door open for ventilation and contact the fire department immediately. If the alarm sounds, even if you and your family are symptom-free, contact the fire department anyway to be safe.
Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips
Many incidents involving carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented. Below are seven tips to help keep your home and family safe from carbon monoxide.
1. Know the risks.
Anything that burns a fuel including a furnace, fireplace or generator, gas appliance or car produces a toxic by-product called carbon monoxide (CO). When these devices are properly maintained and vented this gas can be effectively channeled out of your home. If not, inhaling carbon monoxide can trigger serious health issues.
2. Keep your vents clear.
During and after a storm, make sure nothing is obstructing the outside stack or vent for your dryer, stove, furnace and fireplace. In the event of a snow storm, be sure to prevent snow from building up and blocking these areas.
3. Do not run engines in a closed area.
Proper ventilation is critical to avoiding CO poisoning. Do not start a car, fire up a grill or stove, or run a generator in a closed area like a basement or garage.
4. Schedule regular maintenance.
At least once a year, have a qualified professional inspect your fuel-burning devices to make sure they continue to operate properly.
5. Keep fireplaces clean and well vented.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace or stove, make sure you keep it clean and that the flue is working properly.
6. Install CO alarms.
If you have fuel-burning appliances, a fireplace or an attached garage, install CO alarms in your home. Install one on every level within the vicinity of each sleeping area and in other locations required by any applicable building codes.
7. Maintain your CO alarms.
Your CO alarms need to be maintained regularly. Many come equipped with a battery backup to ensure uninterrupted operation, even if the power goes out. But you will need to remember to change your batteries at the frequency recommended by the manufacturer, like you do with your smoke detectors.
To schedule an inspection of your HVAC system to make sure it is safe and properly ventilated, contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 1.800.361.4010.