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Safe Kids Carroll: How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, the silent killer

Safe Kids Carroll County wants to remind you if you don’t have a battery-powered or battery back-up carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, now is a great time to buy one. More than 450 people die each year from unintentional, non-fire-related CO poisoning.

CO is found in fumes produced by furnaces, vehicles, portable generators, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges, or burning charcoal or wood. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned and can die from breathing CO.

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When power outages occur during emergencies such as hurricanes or winter storms, the use of alternative sources of power for heating, cooling, or cooking can cause carbon monoxide (CO) to build up in a home, garage, or camper and to poison the people and animals inside.

How to Recognize CO Poisoning

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.

How to prevent carbon monoxide exposure

  • Do have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds, leave your home immediately and call 911.
  • Do seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous.
  • Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.
  • Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
  • Don’t heat your house with a gas oven.

CO poisoning is preventable

You can protect yourself and your family by acting wisely in case of a power outage and learning the symptoms of CO poisoning.

For more information visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov or call Safe Kids Carroll County at 410-876-4448.

Maggie Rauser is the Safe Kids coordinator for the Carroll County Health Department.

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