While carbon monoxide poisoning kills fewer than 1,000 people a year in the United States, it does send tens of thousands of people to the emergency room. Unborn babies, children, the elderly and individuals with chronic heart or lung diseases are particularly vulnerable. The sad thing is those deaths and visits could be easily prevented.
What Causes Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas. It is produced when an appliance burns gas or other fossil fuels such as wood, charcoal, or propane. These appliances are designed to vent carbon monoxide out of your home. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if these appliances fail to vent the carbon monoxide.
What are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
There are numerous symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning including:
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Pale skin
- Reddening of lips and ear tips
If not treated promptly, carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to severe complications including:
- Brain damage
- Heart damage
- Short-term memory loss
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Because of everything outlined above, it is so important for you to take these simple steps to avoid CO poisoning in your home.
Install carbon monoxide detectors
In Illinois, homeowners, landlords, and building owners must install carbon monoxide detectors within 15 feet of rooms used for sleeping if the structure uses fossil fuels to cook, heat or product hot water, or if it is connected to an enclosed garage. Some tips:
- As mentioned, install CO alarms near all rooms used for sleeping.
- Do NOT install CO detectors near your kitchen, garage or in a furnace room.
- If the carbon monoxide detector goes off, leave the house immediately and call 911 or the fire department.
- Check the detectors monthly; if they are battery operated, change the batteries every six months.
Have your furnace and chimney inspected
Of all the reasons to have your furnace inspected, making sure it is not allowing CO to enter your home may be the most important. That can happen if the furnace’s heat exchanger – which is critical to making sure CO is vented outside the home – is damaged. An annual inspection will make sure the heat exchanger – as well as the rest of the unit – is functioning safely.
As far as the chimney, if you use your fireplace, you will want to make sure the fumes can escape safely.
Keep your vents clear
Check to see that nothing is blocking the vents for your fuel-burning appliances, including:
- Clothes dryer
Be sure to especially check after heavy snow, which can clog the vents. Also, your local utility company may provide yearly inspections for your gas appliances.
Things to Not Do
- Do not use an emergency generator in your garage or basement. Put any generator at least 20 feet away from windows and doors.
- Do not use charcoal grills or portable stoves.
- Do not use space heaters while sleeping or when you are not home.
- Do not leave your car running in a closed garage.
Contact Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric for all of Your Home’s HVAC Needs
The technicians at Ravinia Plumbing care about your family’s health and want to prevent anyone from being exposed to carbon monoxide. Contact us today for all of your heating repair, maintenance, and installation needs, as well as to install CO detectors around your home.