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How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

Leigh Vinocur, MD
Emergency Medicine
Protect yourself and family members from carbon monoxide poisoning:

– Do not use fuel-burning heaters in un-vented enclosed spaces.

– Make sure your house has functioning carbon monoxide monitors with fresh batteries.

– If a monitor goes off, do not consider it a false alarm. Open all windows to ventilate, and call a technician to check the heating system and ensure all is working properly.

– Do not ignore anyone with symptoms; seek medical help in an ER immediately.

– First aid for victims: remove them from the contaminated area to fresh air or give oxygen if available.
Besides installing a carbon monoxide detector, take additional steps to ensure your family’s safety by inspecting and servicing these potential sources of CO poisoning:
Furnaces
  • Check filters and filtering systems for blockages and dirt.
  • Have a professional check possible dangers such as too high a concentration of CO in the flue gases or cracks in the combustion chamber.
  • Look at the burners and ignition system. If the flame is mostly yellow in a natural gas-fired furnace, this may be a sign that fuel is not burning completely and releasing too high a level of CO.
Venting systems to the outside: Flues, chimneys, and clothes dryer vents
  • Check chimneys for nests that may block gas from escaping.
  • Check chimneys for proper installation, cracks, corrosion, holes, and debris.
  • Check outside dryer vents for lint buildup.
Appliances that use flammable fuels such as oil, wood, kerosene, or natural gas
  • These can include clothes dryers, kitchen ranges, ovens, and water heaters.
  • Check pilot lights since malfunctions can release CO inside the home. Monitor gas stoves and ovens closely.
Space heaters
  • Check to make sure these are vented properly.
Barbecue grills
  • Do not use these indoors.
  • Do not use these in an attached garage, even with the door open.
  • Do not use these outside an open window.
From Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children by Jennifer Trachtenberg.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.