Each year, more than 400 people succumb to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning that is unintentional and non-fire related. When temperatures drop, CO can accumulate quickly in homes and buildings where tightly closed windows and doors are the norm. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says carbon monoxide – which is colorless and odorless – is found in fumes from:
• Portable generators
• Burning charcoal or wood
• Stoves and gas ranges
You should also keep in mind, particularly during the winter flu season, that CO poisoning symptoms often mimic those of influenza. Both carbon monoxide poisoning and influenza share a few common symptoms including headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, chest pain, weakness and dizziness. If you have such symptoms, but with no fever, it is possible that CO might be the culprit. Such was case in the SJH Emergency Department one recent winter. An alert ED physician recognized such flu-like symptoms without any fever in some patients and notified authorities. A check of the patients’ residence turned up high levels of CO in the building, perhaps saving one or more lives.
Do you know the warning signs of CO poisoning? Take a look at the infographic shown above for some of the common CO sources in a home. You can download and view a larger copy of this document here.