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Carbon Monoxide Safety

With the weather turning colder, parents may think its a gas to use wood stoves for home heating. I agree, as long as the gas in question isnt carbon monoxide. Each year, more than 10,000 people are affected by carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, and between 800 and 1,000 of those people will die from it. To help raise awareness of the dangers of CO, the Northern New England Poison Center has made it the subject of their educational campaign this fall. CO is dangerous because you cant see it, taste it, or smell it, and it can kill you or your child without warning, by blocking the delivery of oxygen to cells. Early symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and confusionmaking it easily confused with the flu. So how can you tell if CO poisoning is the culprit? If others in your house also feel ill, and if you feel better when you are away from the house for a period of time, it could be CO poisoning. To prevent CO poisoning, install a CO detector on each level of your house, particularly near bedrooms, and make sure you test them monthly. Replace the battery in the detectors every two years. If the detector alerts you to high CO levels, get everyone out of the house and call the fire department from a neighbors house. Fresh air is the quickest and best antidote to carbon monoxide poisoning, but patients with severe CO poisoning may require treatment in an oxygen (hyperbaric) chamber. Full recovery can occur if the treatment is started early enough, but severe CO poisoning can lead to memory loss, brain damage, and death. Any fuel-burning appliance in your home is a potential source for CO, including the furnace, wood-burning stove, un-vented space heater, gas fireplace, gas range, or water heater. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to call the New England Regional Poison Center at 1-800 222-1222. Hopefully, tips like this will allow you to breathe a sigh of relief (and not breathe carbon monoxide) when you heat your home this winter.

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