Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Power outages and the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning

(RxWiki News) During power outages from hurricanes or tornados, using other power sources can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC estimates that at least 430 Americans die from accidental CO poisoning every year. And about 50,000 Americans each year visit the emergency department due to accidental CO poisoning.

When there are power outages, the use of other power sources can lead to a buildup of CO in a home, especially in enclosed spaces. CO can come from fumes produced by portable generators, stoves, lanterns and gas ranges, as well as burning charcoal and wood. Whatever source it comes from, CO poisoning can be deadly.

Fortunately, it's also entirely preventable. The following are some prevention steps and tips you can follow to help protect yourself and your family:

1) Know the most common symptoms of CO poisoning. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Those who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before becoming aware of symptoms. The sooner you're able to recognize CO poisoning symptoms, the sooner you can seek medical attention.

2) Change the batteries in your CO detector every six months. If you do not have a battery-powered or battery backup CO detector, the CDC recommends purchasing one as soon as you can.

3) Never leave a vehicle running in a garage or other enclosed or partially enclosed space.

4) Never run a pressure washer, generator or any other gasoline-powered engine in an enclosed space like a basement or garage, even if the doors or windows are open — unless the equipment is professionally installed and vented. Be sure to keep vents and flues free of debris, especially if winds are high. Flying debris can block ventilation lines.

5) Never run a vehicle, pressure washer, generator or other gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from an open door, window, or vent where the exhaust can enter an enclosed area.

6) Never use a charcoal grill, lantern or portable camping stove inside a home, tent or camper.

7) During hot temperatures, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has CO poisoning, seek immediate medical care. Be sure to ask your health care provider any questions you may have about CO poisoning and how to keep your family safe.