Health experts give tips on CO poisoning prevention

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The risk for carbon monoxide poisoning increases as the temperatures drop going into the winter months, health officials say.

The Utah Poison Control Center has teamed up with Questar Gas, Unified Fire Authority and the Utah Department of Health to release information reminding Utahns the symptoms of CO poisoning and how to take precautions to prevent it.

According to the CDC, CO poisoning is responsible for more than 24,000 hospitalizations nationwide each year.

In 2012, there were 200 emergency department visits and 31 deaths in Utah.

Health officials describe carbon monoxide as an invisible gas produced when gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene and other fuels are not completely burned during use.

The most common source of CO is automobile exhaust but CO can also be produced by small gas engines, camp lanterns, stoves, charcoal grills, gas ranges and furnaces.

Officials say when appliances and furnaces are improperly adjusted and used in poorly ventilated areas, dangerous amounts of CO can build up in the blood, replacing the oxygen and potentially cause asphyxiation.

CO poisoning symptoms are:

  • persistent, severe headaches and dizziness (usually affecting more than one person in an enclosed area).
  • nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
  • the disappearance of symptoms when individuals leave the structure.

CO poisoning prevention tips are:

  • Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas-, oil-, wood- or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Install an Underwriters Laboratory approved CO monitor on each level of your home. Check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Installing a CO monitor should never be a substitute for a professional inspection of home heating and cooking equipment. Owners of boats and recreational vehicles with propane stoves or heaters should install CO detectors.
  • Inspect homes after heavy snow fall and make sure snow is removed from around exhaust stacks, vents, and fresh-air intakes.
  • If your CO monitor alarms continuously, evacuate your home and call 911 or your local gas company. If the alarm is only intermittent, change the batteries.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated. Immediately call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.
  • Do not use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement or garage or near a window. Generators should be located at least 20 feet from an occupied structure.
  • Do not run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Do not burn anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented.
  • Do not heat your house with a gas oven.

Anyone who thinks they are suffering from CO poisoning should call the Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 or call 911.