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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Threatens in Winter

Winter might not have dealt Fairfield County its snowiest hand yet, but cold has arrived, the heat is on and the windows are closed. It is important that homeowners be aware of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning during these indoor months.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas present wherever there is combustion or the burning of fuel. Red blood cells pick up carbon monoxide more quickly than they do oxygen, and if there is enough carbon monoxide in the air, the red blood cells can replace oxygen with carbon monoxide. This blocks oxygen from getting into the lungs, which can damage tissues and result in death.

In addition to installing carbon monoxide detectors in the home, doctors and practitioners at the Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine Center at Norwalk Hospital have the following suggestions to keep you safe from carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.

  • Make sure your carbon monoxide detector is in good working condition. Ideally, it should be hardwired to your electrical system, with a battery backup.
  • Have your home heating system routinely cleaned.
  • Check your chimney to make sure it is a open, as animal nests and leaves can clog it.
  • Do not use ovens or gas ranges to heat your home.
  • Never use kerosene or other fuel-fired space heaters or barbecues in an enclosed or poorly ventilated space.
  • Do not use paint strippers in poorly ventilated areas.
  • If you notice any problem with your heating system, call your oil or gas company immediately.
  • If you suspect a faulty exhaust system in your car, have it repaired immediately. Have a mechanic periodically check the exhaust system in your car.

In addition to taking precautions, it is important to recognize symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include headache, flu-like illness without a fever, a sense of imbalance, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, numbness or tingling in extremities. If these symptoms occur, seek medical assistance immediately.

For more information, click here or call Norwalk Hospital's Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center at (203) 852-2434.

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