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Beware of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Once Temps Dip

Update Date: Jan 07, 2014 03:22 PM EST
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When the temperature dips outside, people must remember that the cold is not the only thing they have to worry about. During colder weather, like the cold front that is bringing record lows throughout the Midwest this week, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is extremely toxic. Recently, seven people including three children have been hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide kills an average of 170 people per year according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Carbon monoxide is produced when appliances, such as furnaces, ranges, room heaters, water heaters, and portable generators malfunction. The gas can also be produced when people burn coal or use the fireplace for too long in completely enclosed areas. Carbon monoxide can also be produced by an automobile.

"Since carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas, you may not even be aware there is a problem in your home until it is too late," Donna Seger, M.D., professor of Clinical Medicine and medical director of the Tennessee Poison Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said reported by the Vanderbilt Reporter. "Frequent symptoms are headache and nausea, symptoms which make one believe that they have the flu or a viral illness."

During the winter season, people generally use gas, oil and coal more often than before, increasing their risk. Symptoms that people must look out for include vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Some of the delayed symptoms include personality changes, memory problems and concentration issues. When the poisoning is left untreated, it will lead to death. Treatment includes oxygen therapy for a period of time depending on the case.

"Carbon monoxide detectors should be in all homes with heating devices that have the potential to produce CO," Seger added. "These devices may be lifesaving. If a device sounds the alarm, the house should be vacated. The fire department can do measurements to determine the level of CO."

During the winter, people must remember to stay safe outdoors as well as indoors.

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