Cold temperatures drive homeowners to secure their homes and crank up the thermostat, expanding the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. Around 50,000 people in the U.S. go to the emergency room each year as a result of accidental CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.
This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a result of imperfect combustion, meaning it’s released every time a material is combusted or used for fuel. If the appliances in your home run on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re vulnerable to CO inhalation. Find out what happens when you inhale carbon monoxide fumes and how to minimize your risk of poisoning this winter.
Often referred to as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it keeps the body from using oxygen correctly. CO molecules displace oxygen within the blood, starving the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs of oxygen. Large amounts of CO can overpower your system in minutes, triggering loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without immediate care, brain damage or death could occur.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can also happen progressively if the concentration is relatively modest. The most common signs of CO exposure include:
Because these symptoms mimic the flu, many people never discover they have carbon monoxide poisoning until minor symptoms advance to organ damage. Look out for symptoms that lessen when you leave the house, suggesting the source might be originating from inside.
While CO poisoning is alarming, it’s also entirely avoidable. Here are the top ways to protect your family from carbon monoxide exposure.
If you ever use combustion appliances in or around your home, you should install carbon monoxide detectors to notify you of CO leaks. These alarms can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into an outlet depending on the style. Here’s how to make the most of your carbon monoxide detectors:
Several appliances, including furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, can emit carbon monoxide if the appliance is installed incorrectly or not performing as it should. An annual maintenance visit is the only way to ensure if an appliance is faulty before a leak appears.
A precision tune-up from Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing offers the following:
If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has sprung a CO leak, or you want to thwart leaks before they happen, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can help. Our HVAC and plumbing maintenance and repair services encourage a safe, warm home all year-round. Call your local Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing office for more details about carbon monoxide safety or to schedule heating services.
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