Carbon Monoxide (CO) is deadly. What makes it even more terrifying is the fact that it's colorless, tasteless and odorless, that there's no way of indicating its presence aside from using a carbon monoxide detector. At high levels, this gas can kill a person in just a few minutes. CO is produced when charcoal, gas, oil, wood or kerosene is burned. The amount of CO emitted by electrical appliances are not usually harmful if the devices are working properly. However, when these devices malfunction or are used incorrectly, CO may be produced and can harm people. If carbon monoxide poisoning happen, here's what you need to know.
Signs and Symptoms of CO Poisoning, and How To React
First, you have to know the signs and symptoms. You can't act on CO poisoning if you don't know that it's happening.
- At low levels, it can bring shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches.
- At moderate levels, CO can cause sudden painful headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea or fainting. Some people confuse these symptoms with other diseases such as flu or food poisoning. But it's important to put a finger immediately on CO poisoning when it happens to know the right thing to do which include the following:
• Get fresh air immediately. Open all doors and windows. Turn off all electrical appliances. Then leave the house immediately. If another person is feeling the symptoms, bring him/her outside the house right away.
• Get medical help. Call up 911 or go to an emergency room. Tell your doctor that you suspect CO poisoning. Diagnosis would be in order through a blood test. Your doctor will also ask you if the symptoms occurred only inside the house and if they disappeared when you left. He/she will also inquire if anybody inside the house also experienced similar symptoms at the same time. The doctor will further ask about the fuel-burning appliances in the home, if they have been inspected lately and if you are sure if they are in good working condition.
Better than the steps for emergency procedure is prevention. To prevent CO poisoning from occurring in your home, you must do the following steps:
• Have all your fuel-burning appliances checked by a professional at least twice a year. These would include oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges, ovens, gas dryers, space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves. Do not use any item that is not in good working condition.
• Install appliances in such a way that fumes are vented outside the house. All devices should be installed, operated and maintained according to the manufacturer's instructions.
• Ensure proper ventilation when using fuel-burning devices. Crack a window or use an exhaust fan so fumes can be exhausted from the house.
• Don't idle the car. Idle cars are another common cause of CO poisoning.
• Never use a gas oven to heat your home. Even for a short time, this can emit carbon monoxide at dangerous levels.
• Do not use charcoal grill inside the house, not even in the fireplace.
• Don't sleep with the space heater turned on.
• Install a carbon monoxide detector at home. However, don't let this give you a sense of false security that would make you forgo the yearly professional inspection of fuel-burning appliances inside the house.