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Carbon monoxide is a winter killer

BURLINGTON - As colder weather approaches, Safe Kids Vermont reminds parents and caregivers that fuel-burning appliances can cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide to build up in the home. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, invisible gas that can build up near fuel-burning appliances such as ovens, generators, space heaters, indoor grills and fireplaces.

"We all know it's essential to have working smoke alarms in every sleeping area, but what about carbon monoxide alarms?" saID Susan Victory, program manager, Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and Safe Kids Vermont Coalition coordinator. "Carbon monoxide can kill, and it can make a child seriously ill in small doses that might not noticeably affect an adult."

Each year, according to a study from 2004-2006, children less than 5 years old have the highest estimated rate of CO-related visits to the emergency room among all age groups in the United States. More than 25 children die from CO poisoning every year.

"Half of all CO poisoning deaths could be prevented by CO alarms," said Victory. "CO alarms are available at hardware stores for about $20, a small price to pay to help detect odorless, poisonous gases in the home."

Safe Kids Vermont also recommends these precautions against CO poisoning:

Prevent CO buildup in the first place - make sure heating appliances are in good working order and used only in well-ventilated areas.

Don't run a car engine in the garage, even to warm it up; move the car outside first.

Install a CO alarm outside every sleeping area, on every level of your home and at least 15 feet away from every fuel-burning appliance.

Check the batteries monthly (when you check your smoke alarm batteries) and replace them twice a year.

Remember that cigarette smoke is another source of carbon monoxide.

If someone who has been in a poorly ventilated room with a fuel-burning appliance begins to feel fatigued, nauseous, drowsy or confused, or complains of a headache, move the victim to fresh air and call 911. If more than one person in the home suddenly feels ill for no apparent reason, or if a CO alarm goes off, get everyone outside immediately and call 911 from a pre-arranged meeting place.

Low-income families in need of CO alarms should call Safe Kids Vermont at 802-847-7055. For more information about CO poisoning, visit www.safekids.org.

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