November 28, 2021

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Digital Exclusive: The warning signs of Carbon Monoxide, similarities to COVID-19

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– Like fire, carbon monoxide (CO) is just as deadly. November is Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month – a time to really be aware of what is an invisible killer.

CO is called the invisible killer because it’s colorless, odorless and tasteless. More than 400 people in the United States die every year from accidental non fire-related CO poisoning associated with consumer products, including generators. When you breathe in CO, it makes you feel nauseas, dizzy, headachy, and tired like you have the flu.

In fact, several of the COVID-19 symptoms are also similar to CO poisoning symptoms. CO also makes it difficult to think clearly and it poisons the body by removing oxygen in the blood stream, slowing suffocating you and eventually causing unconsciousness and even death.

“As Mid-Michigan families are spending more time at home, the outside temperatures are dropping and we’re turning on our heating systems, the potential for deadly carbon monoxide to build up in the home is a real concern”, according to Firefighter Michael McLeieer, president of the non-profit safety organization E.S.C.A.P.E. Inc. “Installing and maintaining carbon monoxide alarms on every level of the home and near the sleeping areas is the best action people can take in their home to remain safe,” according to McLeieer.

CO Facts & figures

  • The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim’s health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body’s ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.
  • A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
  • More than 20,000 people visit emergency rooms across the U.S. and more than 4,000 are hospitalized each year.

What can you do?

  • Install a CO alarm on every level of your home and inside the sleeping areas. Replace alarms that are over five – seven years old with new technology.
  • Remove vehicles from the garage immediately after starting them. Never use a remote engine start feature and allow the vehicle to remain inside the garage even with the garage door open.
  • During a power outage, place a generator outside and away from your home or other building. Never use a generator inside your home or attached garage.
  • Have a licensed contractor inspect and service your gas-fired heating and cooking appliances at least annually.
  • When you travel and spend time staying at a hotel or motel, bring a travel carbon monoxide (CO) alarm with you to place in your room.

What to do if you suspect CO exposure

  • Get out of the house or car and get fresh air.
  • Call 9-1-1 or the fire department from the fresh air location. Remain there until emergency personnel declare that it is safe to reenter the home.
  • If you have symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

Other Safety Tips for the Winter Season:

  • During a power outage, always use LED lamps or flashlights. Avoid using candles or other open flames.
  • Never use an oven or stove for heat.
  • Test your smoke alarms at least once a month and replace alarms every 10 years.
  • Have two ways out of any room in case of a fire. Go outside to a meeting place, call 911 and remain at the meeting place until emergency responders arrive. Examples of a meeting place include a tree in the front yard, a sidewalk, or your neighbor’s house.

For more information on carbon monoxide and generator safety, please visit the National Fire Protection Association or the United States Fire Administration websites. Remember, Fire Is Everyone’s Fight®.

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