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 dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness, confusion and chest pain. Those who have been drinking alcohol or are sleeping 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 your CO detector batteries 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) Do not leave a vehicle running in a garage or other enclosed or partially enclosed space.

4) Do not run a pressure washer, generator, or any other gasoline-powered engine in an enclosed space like a basement or garage, even if the windows or doors 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. Debris that is flying around can block the ventilation lines.

5) Do not run a vehicle, pressure washer, generator or other gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from a window, vent or open door where the exhaust can enter an enclosed area.

6) Do not use a lantern, portable camping stove or charcoal grill inside a tent, home or camper.

7) During hot temperatures, find shelter with friends or seek 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 have about CO poisoning and how to keep your family safe.