Winter temperatures drive homeowners to secure their homes and turn up the thermostat, expanding the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. About 50,000 people in the U.S. end up in the emergency room annually because of inadvertent CO poisoning, and more than 400 people die.
This odorless, tasteless, colorless gas is a byproduct of imperfect combustion, meaning it’s created each time a material is burned. If some appliances in your home rely on natural gas, oil, propane, kerosene, wood, gasoline or charcoal, you’re susceptible to CO poisoning. Learn what happens when you inhale carbon monoxide gases and how to reduce your risk of exposure this winter.
Often known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is lethal because it prevents the body from processing oxygen properly. CO molecules dislodge oxygen that’s part of the blood, starving the heart, brain, lungs and other vital organs of oxygen. Dense concentrations of CO can overtake your system in minutes, leading to loss of consciousness and suffocation. Without urgent care, brain damage or death could occur.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can also happen gradually if the concentration is fairly minimal. The most frequent signs of CO poisoning include:
Since these symptoms mimic the flu, a lot of people never discover they have carbon monoxide poisoning until minor symptoms progress to organ damage. Be wary of symptoms that decrease when you leave home, indicating the source might be somewhere inside.
While CO poisoning is alarming, it’s also entirely preventable. Here are the top ways to help your family avoid carbon monoxide exposure.
If you ever run combustion appliances in or close to your home, you should put in carbon monoxide detectors to alert you of CO leaks. These detectors 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:
Multiple appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces and clothes dryers, may release carbon monoxide if the equipment is installed improperly or not running as it should. A once-a-year 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 consists of the following:
If your gas furnace, boiler or water heater has developed a CO leak, or you want to stop leaks before they happen, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can help. Our HVAC and plumbing maintenance and repair services help provide a safe, comfortable home all year-round. Contact 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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