The Connecticut Poison Control Center at the UConn Health Center is issuing a reminder about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to keep your family safe from it.
High amounts of snow also can present additional problems.
“With this big winter storm on everyone’s mind, what also should be on our mind as we prepare for it is carbon monoxide detectors,” says Amy Hanoian Fontana, community education specialist with the Connecticut Poison Control Center. “Make sure you have working CO detectors in your home—ideally installed near sleeping areas—and extra batteries for it.”
“Be extra careful to check that your car’s exhaust pipe is clear before starting it up,” Hanoian Fontana says. “If tailpipes are blocked by snow or other debris, carbon monoxide can build to deadly levels quickly. Also check the outside of your home to make sure flue or exhaust systems for heating are clear of snow. Drifting snow can accumulate quickly and block home exhaust systems, inhibiting proper ventilation and allowing unsafe levels of carbon monoxide to linger indoors.”
With past storms’ carbon monoxide cases in mind, poison control center experts have additional recommendations:
- Do not warm up the snow blower or use generators, charcoal grills, gas grills, indoors or in a garage, carport, basement or other enclosed space, such as a covered porch. “Even if doors and windows are open, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can build up quickly,” Hanoian Fontana says.
- Do not use propane or kerosene heaters inside your home. It is also not recommended to heat your home with your gas oven or stove top.
- Use generators outside and at least 20 feet from your home. Keep your generator away from doors, windows or air intake vents. Make sure outside vents are not blocked with snow or leaves. Poison center data show that generators were the most likely source of CO poisoning in past storms.
Early symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, nausea, unclear thinking, shortness of breath, weakness, and loss of muscle control. Severe symptoms can include convulsions and unconsciousness that can lead to death.
“If your CO alarm goes off, or if you experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, go outside immediately,” Hanoian Fontana says. “Use your cell phone or a neighbor’s phone to call the poison center or 911.”
Health care professionals and the public can call the Poison Control Center any time, day or night, at 1-800-222-1222 to report poisonings and get immediate treatment advice from poison specialists.