It’s called the “Silent Killer.” Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen any time of the year, but people are especially at risk during the winter months.
Ann Slattery is the Director of the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama. She says it’s estimated that 5,000- 6,000 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year and most everyone is at risk. “Any time you have an appliance that uses natural gas, a kerosene heater or if there’s a garage attached to the home, or a fireplace you’re at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning,” she says.
Slattery says the number of people who visit the emergency department due to carbon monoxide poisoning is very high. It’s estimated that 50,000 people a year are poisoned by carbon monoxide. But because it can be hard to detect and the symptoms vary, one medical journal estimates that the number to be as high as 200,000. Some of the initial symptoms may be similar to that of the flu.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Loss of consciousness
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be called the silent killer because it is:
Slattery says people often don’t realize dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are in the home. “It can make you drowsy,” she says. “Depending how high the levels are you can go to sleep. Or you may be asleep when the levels rise and not wake back up.” That’s why she strongly recommends carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home.
“If you have natural gas appliances, a garage, a kerosene heater or a fireplace you need a carbon monoxide detector,” she says. Slattery says homes should have multiple detectors in key locations. “You should have a carbon monoxide detector 10 -15 feet away from the garage door, inside the home. There should be one 10-15 feet from the fireplace. And there should be a carbon monoxide detector on each level of the home and outside the bedrooms.”
Locations of Carbon Monoxide Detectors in the Home
- 10 -15 feet from garage
- 10- 15 feet from fireplace
- on each level of the home
- outside the bedrooms
If it’s believed someone has been exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, leave the area immediately and call 911 or visit the emergency department. For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning contact the Regional Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.