January 11, 2002
UPMC Health System Offers Tips on How
to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning This Winter
- It's known as the silent killer. Carbon monoxide is a
colorless, odorless and tasteless toxic gas produced as a by-product of
combustion. Accidental deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning tend to rise
this time of year, when people turn on their furnaces as the temperature
drops. Last year, the Allegheny County Health Department reported 28 cases
of carbon monoxide poisoning. Of those occurrences, 23 were heating-related.
How can you safeguard yourself this winter? Using some common sense and
advance planning can help.
Kevin O'Toole, M.D., F.A.C.E.P., associate professor of
emergency medicine and director of the hyperbaric medicine program at UPMC
Health System, offers these suggestions on how to protect you and your
-- Don't leave your car running inside your garage,
even if the door is open. If you are trying to warm up your car, park it
-- Be sure to check your furnace and other
gas-powered utilities before the start of the winter season. Make sure
there are no cracks or leaks in any of them.
-- Inspect your chimney to be sure it isn't clogged
up and have it professionally cleaned each year so smoke doesn't back up
into the home.
-- Buy a carbon monoxide detector and install one on
each floor of your home. If you already have one, remember to replace the
batteries to keep it functioning properly.
-- If family members share common symptoms, such as
dizziness, nausea, blurred vision or headache, do not assume it's just the
flu. If you suspect it might be carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately call
your local emergency number or 911 and evacuate your house."Carbon monoxide
poisoning is the leading cause of poisonous deaths in the United States. However, it is preventable if the
warning signs are recognized," says Dr. O'Toole. Several manufacturers offer
toll-free numbers to learn how to install a carbon monoxide detector in your
home. Local fire or police departments are also good sources for additional