December 10 — PROVO — Unusually warm December temperatures mean people still have time to protect themselves against carbon monoxide poisoning this winter.
Furnaces and other heating elements that burn coal, wood, charcoal, propane or natural gas all produce carbon monoxide (CO), which can collect in a home or garage and cause poisoning. The gas is odorless, which means many people are unknowingly exposed each year. This exposure can bring serious health problems or even death.
Marc Robins, DO, medical director of Hyperbaric Medicine at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, lists four steps Utah County residents can take to reduce their risk of exposure to carbon monoxide:
1. Schedule check-up for your furnace and hot water heater. It’s important to have all gas-fired furnaces and hot water heaters checked by heating and air conditioning professionals every year.
2. Purchase a carbon monoxide alarm for every home or business. Dr. Robins recommends alarms that meet the UL2034 standard; alarms with a digital display add an additional level of protection.
3. Replace your carbon monoxide alarm every five years and consider bringing one with you when you travel.
4. Learn the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Exposure can be lethal, sometimes with no advance sign of trouble. Common symptoms at lower levels of exposure include headache, fatigue, confusion, the feeling that something’s not right, dizziness, achiness, and even loss of consciousness. “Be suspicious of carbon monoxide if several people have flu-like symptoms all at once, especially if fever is absent,” Dr. Robins said.
And another clue to watch for: If symptoms lessen when you leave the area. If you experience this situation, evacuate the area immediately and call 911.
Unusually warm December temperatures mean people still have time to protect themselves against carbon monoxide poisoning this winter.