How You Can Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a silent and deadly killer. More than 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year and over 10,000 more require medical treatment for symptoms of illness brought about by excessive exposure to carbon monoxide gas. Young children, senior citizens and those who have heart and/or breathing problems are most vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning; at the same time, even healthy individuals can be killed by this odorless gas. Thankfully, there are ways to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Following are some warning signs that can alert you to the fact that carbon monoxide is present in your home. If you see any of these danger signs, address the problem immediately by either having home repairs done or seeking medical help. It can mean the difference between life and death or at least good health and serious health problems.
Warning Signs in the Home
Anything that burns fuel in your home has the potential to release carbon monoxide into the air. Fuel-burning devices include fireplaces that burn gas or wood, gas stoves and ovens, furnaces, boilers, water heaters, power generators, and power tools. Even excessive tobacco smoke can cause avoidable carbon monoxide poisoning.
You should always be on the lookout look for warning signs that certain devices may be releasing carbon monoxide into the home. These include:
- Moisture. Carbon monoxide creates moisture in the home, leading to condensation in the walls and/or on the inside part of windows. You will also likely notice water streaks on the device releasing this gas.
- Moisture-related problems soon follow. These include excessive rusting near fuel-burning devices, especially on metal chimneys, appliance jacks, and flue pipes. Mold can also be a sign of carbon monoxide in the home because it grows when humid air comes in contact with a cold spot. Look out for moisture on walls, floors, and appliances in an unventilated area.
- Device malfunctions. When appliances release carbon monoxide into the air, they release other, visible signs as well. Be on the lookout for stains, soot, or discolored walls around where appliances are installed. Check appliance flames, as carbon monoxide causes flames to burn badly, slowly, or floppily. This gas may also turn a normally blue flame orange or yellow.
- Loose or disconnected vent/chimney connections or guards. Carbon monoxide poisoning happens because the gas does not have a route out of the home.
- Blocked chimney. Carbon monoxide may not block a chimney; however, a blocked chimney does cause carbon monoxide build-up in the home. If you notice your chimney is blocked, have it cleaned immediately.
- Keep an eye on your plants and pets as well. While not all plants last through the winter it is unwise to automatically attribute wilting, dying plants to the change in temperature. If all your plants seem to be doing poorly and/or the plants closest to fuel-burning devices tend to die sooner than the others, this is a telltale sign you may have carbon monoxide in the home.
- A bad smell. If you notice a stale, stuffy, or burning smell in your home, be aware that this could be an indication that a device is releasing carbon monoxide into the air. While carbon monoxide is odorless, malfunctioning devices that release may also release other toxic gases at the same time.
Health-Related Warning Signs
Carbon monoxide may be a silent killer but it is not always an instant one. It is not uncommon for households who are exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning to have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Aches and pains. These include headaches, stomachaches, and chest pain.
- Breathing problems. You may feel short of breath when exercising or carrying heavy objects. Those who already have breathing problems such as asthma may feel out of breath even when relaxing.
- Fatigue. You may feel tired all the time, have a hard time getting up in the morning, or simply not feel much like doing anything.
- Irritability. You and others in the home may feel confused, leading to increased anger, irritability, and/or frustration over small things.
- Pets are also vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have an indoor pet who is not eating well and seems to be overly tired, confused, or irritated, try taking it outside to see if symptoms improve. If the pet is noticeably better outside the home you can be sure that there is carbon monoxide present inside the house.
- Another telltale symptom is that everyone in the home feels ill to some degree.
At the same time, it is very important to note that some people can lose consciousness or even die without experiencing a single symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning. This is particularly true for those who are either sleeping or have had too much to drink.
What Can You Do?
The CDC recommends that every single homeowner install a carbon monoxide detector in the home. Ideally, this detector should be installed where it will wake you up if you’re asleep. The batteries should be changed twice a year and you should install new detectors every five years or so.
Any device in the home that uses gas, oil, or coal should be serviced by an inspector on an annual basis. Having devices inspected before using them for the winter can avoid carbon monoxide poisoning at the onset. Additionally, all fuel-burning devices should be placed in areas with proper ventilation.
Don’t let carbon monoxide poisoning hurt you and those you love. It is easy and necessary for your safety to take these steps to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Do everything you can to prevent poisoning and remain vigilant for signs of carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. As the old saying goes, “Better safe than sorry.” Contact us today if you need a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home, and be sure to check out our amazing reviews!