Health & Wellness: How to recognize and prevent CO poisoning

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Many people are aware of the threat posed by carbon monoxide, or CO. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 430 people die from accidental CO poisoning in the United States each year, while the Canada Safety Council notes that carbon monoxide is the leading cause of fatal poisonings throughout North America.

Yusdel Moreno Iglesias, shown here in a personal photograph, was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in his Golden Gate Estates home the morning of Monday, Sept. 11, 2017.

The CDC points out that instances of CO poisoning are entirely preventable, which might surprise many of the estimated tens of thousands of people in the United States who visit emergency rooms to be treated for CO poisoning each year. Learning to recognize signs of CO poisoning and how to prevent it can help people avoid its harmful effects and potentially save lives.

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Recognizing CO poisoning

The National Center for Environmental Health says that breathing CO can cause a variety of symptoms, including headache, dizziness, vomiting, or nausea. Infants, the elderly and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO exposure than children, adults and people without the aforementioned conditions.

How can I prevent CO poisoning?

Even those people who do not lose their lives to moderate or severe CO poisoning can suffer long-term health consequences, including an increased risk of heart disease, as a result of their exposure. So it behooves everyone to take steps to prevent CO poisoning from occurring.

  • Do not run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer or any gasoline-powered engine within 20 feet of an open window, door or vent. The exhaust from such items can vent into enclosed areas, increasing the risk of CO exposure.
  • Do not leave motor vehicles running in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces, such as a garage.
  • Do not run generators, pressure washers or gasoline-powered inside basements, garages or other enclosed structures, even if windows are open.
  • Do not operate charcoal grills, hibachis, lanterns or portable camping stoves indoors or insides tents or campers.

CO poisoning can cause very serious consequences, including death. Fortunately, all instances of CO poisoning can be prevented.