There are many options for homeowners to keep warm during these cold weather months. A hot shower takes the chill away quickly after a long day, a hot cup of soup is a great snack after an hour or so of outdoor yard work, and raising the temperature on the thermostat a couple of degrees will make your house cozy and warm.
While you rely on various appliances to keep you warm during the cold weather season, using these appliances can also cause you and your family serious harm. If any of these appliances in your home are run by natural gas, oil, or propane, then they put off a gas called Carbon Monoxide.
Carbon monoxide is a dangerous by-product of combustion. In low levels it will make you very ill and can cause long-term nerve damage. In high levels it can be lethal. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and tasteless so it is impossible to know if you are breathing it in.
The way that you can keep you and your family from being harmed by carbon monoxide is to be armed with information. Here are some things to know:
- Every year more than 10,000 people visit emergency rooms because of exposure to CO. Some of the symptoms of low-level CO exposure are: vomiting, nausea, headache, and fatigue. These symptoms come on very suddenly and can be mistaken for the flu.
- All appliances that use combustion to ignite (anything other than electricity) create CO. This includes heaters, ovens, and water heaters that run on natural gas, propane, and oil.
- More than 400 people die annually from high levels of CO exposure. This can be caused by a leak or malfunction in any combustion appliance. Symptoms of high-level CO exposure are memory loss, confusion, rapid heart rate, and sensitivity to sound and lights.
- Leaving your car to idle in a closed garage can produce enough CO to be lethal in less than 12 minutes. Equipment that is meant to be used outside including barbeque grills, camping stoves, and generators will cause CO to accumulate if used indoors.
- CO detectors are the most effective way to identify CO content in the air. These detectors can be purchased at any home improvement store and should be installed in your home on or near the ceiling. CO travels up with the hot air that it is in.
Now that the cold temperatures have arrived and you and your family will be spending more time indoors, make sure that you are staying safe while you are keeping warm.