A.M.R. Offers Advice to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless and colorless gas known as the "silent killer." The Centers for Disease Control estimates that carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning claims nearly 400 lives and causes more than 20,000 visits to hospital emergency departments annually.

“Many people write off the symptoms of CO poisoning as the flu. It is important to make sure your furnace is checked out by a professional yearly,” said Gregory Doyle, Chief of Ambulance Operations of American Medical Response (A.M.R.)

Doyle offers these tips to help protect your family from CO poisoning:

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•Have home heating systems (including chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually by a trained service technician
•Never use portable generators inside homes or garages, even if doors and windows are open
•Only use generators outside, far away from the home
•Never bring a charcoal grill into the house or garage for heating or cooking
•Never use a gas range or oven for heating
•Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire and keep it open until the ashes are cool
•Install battery-operated CO alarms outside each sleeping area
Know the Symptoms of CO Poisoning
Because CO is odorless, colorless and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know when they are exposed.

The initial symptoms of low-to-moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu, but without the fever. They include:

•Shortness of breath

High-level CO poisoning leads to progressively more severe symptoms. It is important to be on the lookout for:

•Mental confusion
•Loss of muscular coordination
•Loss of consciousness

Don’t ignore any of the symptoms listed above, especially if more than one person is experiencing them. If you think you are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, you should:

•Leave the house
•Get fresh air immediately
•Call 911 from your cellphone or a neighbor’s house
•Go to an emergency department and be sure to tell the physician that you suspect CO poisoning

If untreated, CO poisoning can lead to death. For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning please visit the Consumer Safety Product Commission’s website at www.cpsc.gov.