Media Release: Carbon monoxide: The invisible killer

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Dayton Children's and Safe Kids Greater Dayton give eight precautions against CO poisoning

02-08-2010 (Dayton, OH) - Winter weather is here and Dayton Children's and Safe Kids Greater Dayton remind parents and caregivers that fuel-burning appliances can cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide to build up in the home.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, invisible gas that can build up near fuel-burning appliances such as ovens, generators, space heaters, indoor grills and fireplaces.


"We all know it's essential to have working smoke alarms in every sleeping area, but what about carbon monoxide alarms?" says Jessica Saunders community relations manager at Dayton Children's and Safe Kids Greater Dayton coordinator. "Carbon monoxide can kill, and it can make a child seriously ill in small doses that might not noticeably affect an adult."

Each year, according to a study from 2004-2006, children less than 5 years old have the highest estimated rate of CO-related visits to the emergency room among all age groups in the United States.

More than 25 kids die from CO poisoning every year.


"Half of all CO poisoning deaths could be prevented by CO alarms," says Saunders. "CO alarms are available at hardware stores for about $20, a small price to pay to help detect odorless, poisonous gases in the home."

At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue.

"If you suspect CO poisoning, get checked right away. Dangerous levels in the patient can be detected quickly with a simple blood test," says Lisa Schwing, RN, trauma program manager at Dayton Children's. "Suspect CO poisoning when flu-like symptoms exist in more than one person in the household and symptoms seem to lessen in those who spend some time outside of the home."

Dayton Children's and Safe Kids Greater Dayton also recommend eights precautions against CO poisoning:

  1. Prevent CO buildup in the first place make sure heating appliances are in good working order and used only in well-ventilated areas.
  2. Have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances, furnaces, venting and chimney systems at least once a year.
  3. Never use your range or oven to help heat your home and never use a charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage.
  4. When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician evaluates the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house. The presence of a carbon monoxide alarm in your home can save your life in the event of CO buildup.
  5. Don't run a car engine in the garage, even to warm it up; move the car outside first. Clear exhaust pipes before starting a car or truck after it snows.
  6. Install a CO alarm outside every sleeping area, on every level of your home and at least 15 feet away from every fuel-burning appliance.
  7. Check the batteries monthly (when you check your smoke alarm batteries) and replace them twice a year.
  8. Remember that cigarette smoke is another source of carbon monoxide.
If someone who has been in a poorly ventilated room with a fuel-burning appliance begins to feel fatigued, nauseous, drowsy or confused, or complains of a headache, move the victim to fresh air and call 911. If more than one person in the home suddenly feels ill for no apparent reason, or if a CO alarm goes off, get everyone outside immediately and call 911 from a pre-arranged meeting place.

 

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