You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes, Cal Fire officials said as a reminder Monday.
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO they produce is usually not hazardous.
However, if appliances aren’t being used properly, dangerous CO levels can result. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning, officials said, including malfunctioning or improper use of appliances, and even from idling cars.
Fetuses, infants, the elderly, and people with anemia or a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially susceptible.
Cal Fire says the public should know the symptoms of CO poisoning. At moderate levels, people or their families can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. Death can occurr if these levels persist for a long period. Low levels, meanwhile, can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, mild headaches, and can have long-term effects on a person’s health.
Since the symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, it’s easy to think CO poisoning may not be a cause.
Play it safe
If you experience these symptoms and think they could be CO poisoning:
☆ Call 911 or a local emergency number.
☆ Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances, and leave the house.
☆ Do not re-enter the premises until cleared by emergency personnel.
☆ Go to an emergency room and tell a doctor you suspect it may be CO poisoning.
Guidelines to keep yourself and your family safe
☆ Install CO alarms outside sleeping areas and on every level of a home, including the basement.
☆ Keep CO alarms clear of dust and debris.
☆ Ensure the alarm is plugged into a working outlet and its batteries are strong.
☆ Don’t use a gas oven to heat your home, even for short periods.
☆ Don’t idle a car in a garage, even if the garage door is open. Fumes can build quickly and in a home’s living area.
☆ Don’t ever use charcoal grills indoors, even in a fireplace.
☆ Don’t sleep in any room with an unvented or kerosene space heater.
☆ Don’t ignore symptoms, particularly if more than one person is feeling them. You could lose consciousness and die if you take no action.
For more information, visit www.fire.ca.gov.
Cal Fire MMU