Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in the Winter

By now, most people have heard of carbon monoxide and how dangerous it is, but most people still don’t know exactly what it is or how to protect themselves and their families.

Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is a colorless, odorless gas produced when burning oxygen. The problem with carbon monoxide is that it bonds with the chemicals in your red blood cells better than oxygen. That means your blood is carrying around carbon monoxide, there’s nowhere for the oxygen to go and your cells don’t get the oxygen they need to survive. This means you can get sick or even die from exposure to fairly small amounts. And because you can’t see or smell it, you often won’t even know you’re being exposed.

When oxygen is burned, carbon monoxide is made as a by-product. If you are burning a fire outside, this dangerous gas simply floats away; however, if it is indoors, you and your family can easily inhale it. The most common sources are faulty heaters, fires that are not properly ventilated, and car exhaust.

In large amounts, carbon monoxide is fatal; however, in smaller amounts it can still make you very sick. The symptoms of minor CO poisoning include nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, shortness of breath, and headache. They generally go away a few hours after leaving the area. These symptoms are caused by small amounts of the gas. In higher concentrations, carbon monoxide is fatal.

The biggest problem with mild carbon monoxide poisoning is that it is difficult to diagnose and is often confused with other conditions, like the flu. That’s why it’s important to prevent exposure to your family before it happens.

The best way to protect yourself against carbon monoxide poisoning is to get a carbon monoxide detector for your home and test it regularly to make sure it is working. These detectors are similar to a smoke detector. They are small, inexpensive, and can help protect your family’s health and even lives.

Besides buying a detector, take steps to keep this dangerous gas out of your house in the first place. Have your heater checked regularly to make sure it’s working properly, especially if it’s starting to get old. In addition, make sure your flu is cleaned regularly so it doesn’t back up when you start a fire. Never run any kind of engine, like a car, motorcycle, or other gas engine, inside an enclosed space. If you want to warm up your car, open the garage door or pull it outside before you turn it on.

With a very small amount of effort, you can help keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.

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