Cold Weather and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Many people use various fuel-powered appliances for a variety of reasons. Examples include kitchen appliances, such as a gas stove, to cook. During the cold weather months, many people rely on wood-burning heaters or heaters that use kerosene, propane, or natural gas to stay warm. And while these can be very efficient sources of heat, there’s a risk associated with them – carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Car engines are a prime source for this odorless gas. Your car exhaust contains CO as a byproduct of the internal combustion engine – it is released into the atmosphere by any type of engine that utilizes internal combustion – which also includes generators and snow blowers. Using these items outside doesn’t produce a very high risk for poisoning. However, the danger can be extremely serious when the gas is released indoors – such as in a house or a garage. Even small levels of CO can be detrimental to your health. This risk is even greater for the elderly or for small children.

Symptoms of overexposure to CO often include shortness of breath, headache, nausea, and feeling dizzy. Unfortunately, those are also symptoms of many other common ailments. And if left unchecked and untreated, this type of poisoning can cause permanent health damage. Mental confusion, loss of muscle control, vomiting and loss of consciousness can occur very quickly following exposure. If you or a family member start to exhibit these symptoms and suspect CO might be the culprit, try to get outside to fresh air immediately. Breathing in fresh air will help the gas to circulate out of your system so that you can start to feel better.

One of the ways to prevent this from occurring is to invest in a CO detector. This can be particularly important if you have a gas furnace or use a wood burning stove or a generator to power and heat your home during cod weather. The detectors can be purchased at a wide variety of stores and are fairly inexpensive. Another way to prevent CO related illness is to make sure to get your household appliances serviced regularly so that they stay in good working condition. This type of prevention can save you and your family members from a very unpleasant illness and may very well save them from an untimely death.