Beware the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Beware the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

There may be a hidden danger lurking in your home. Carbon monoxide gas is both odorless and colorless, but it is far from harmless.

When a person inhales this gas, the result can be that of sudden illness or death. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health, more than 15,000 people are seen in the emergency room due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning each year.  About 400-500 of these poisonings resulted in death. This hazard can affect anyone, however children aged four and under were the most common age group at risk.

At Child Safety Source, we aim to keep children out of harm’s way by bringing attention to potential safety risks. In past cases, we've tackled how to properly install a car safety seat and how to prevent infant choking. Carbon monoxide poisoning definitely falls into this category. 

What are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning vary greatly, and may not look the same from person to person. That said, the most common signs of poisoning include:

  • headaches,
  • nausea,
  • dizziness and
  • chest pain.

When the poisoning becomes more severe, so do the symptoms.  As the illness progresses, one may experience:

  • shortness of breath,
  • loss of consciousness,
  • loss of vision,
  • seizures,
  • respiratory failure,
  • or even death.

With prolonged exposure to this gas, signs of a permanent illness become more likely. Children, pregnant women and the elderly are particularly susceptible. Consult a doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.

What Causes Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Carbon monoxide gas is formed by the incomplete burning of fuels that contain carbon. This includes wood, charcoal, gasoline, coal, natural gas, or kerosene. By breathing carbon monoxide fumes, a person’s blood loses its ability to carry oxygen. In short, a low level of oxygen leads to the death of vital cells that may otherwise keep your organs operating properly.

The source of this gas can be any number of places, many of which may already be in your home. This includes fuel-burning appliances such as gas stoves, or gas water heaters. Fireplaces, space heaters, barbecue grills and vehicles also pose carbon monoxide dangers. In addition, this type of poisoning often occurs after natural disasters since generators are used as an alternate fuel source. Be sure not to leave your little ones near these types of appliances without proper supervision.

Preventing Exposure to Carbon Monoxide

The first line of defense against exposure is to ensure the proper installation and maintenance of sources that burn fuels. For instance, be sure that your furnace and fireplace are cleaned and inspected regularly, never use a charcoal grill indoors, and only use a gas oven for cooking, not for heat. Additionally, a carbon monoxide detector near each sleeping area of your home can provide you with a warning should gas be detected in your home.   

Treating Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

If your child is exposed to carbon monoxide gas, remove them from the area in order to reduce contact with the source in favor of fresh air. If possible, turn off the gas source. If the child is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, or if you are certain of exposure, call 911 right away.  In the event that the person who was exposed to the gas stops breathing, begin CPR immediately. Further treatment for carbon monoxide gas exposure may include blood tests, chest X-rays and additional evaluation.

Carbon monoxide is a very serious matter. Exposure to this gas can have dire affects on a person, especially a child. It requires swift action and should be taken seriously. You can help to prevent exposure to the gas or reduce its effects just by being aware of the above warning signs and treatments.

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