Carbon monoxide can be pernicious killer

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Nebraska's weather can be unforgiving if you find yourself out in it unprotected, but the alternative can be just as dangerous if your heating equipment isn't up to snuff.

Unfortunately, that's too often the case, and it's getting worse, according to the Nebraska Poison Center, which reports a 24 percent increase in carbon monoxide calls so far this year compared to last year.

Every year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning and 20,000 are seen emergency rooms, another 4,000 hospitalized.

Nebraska is a great state, but not in this case -- we're ranked one of the states with the highest mortality rate from carbon monoxide poisoning.

If you're experiencing sleepiness, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, shortness of breath and even convulsions, you may be experiencing exposure to too much carbon monoxide.

The first step in treating such a case is to get the victim to fresh air, then seek medical attention immediately.

Unlike other threats, carbon monoxide is devious in its attacks. Produced when fuels burn incompletely, CO has no color, taste or smell. It's most usually produced by heating equipment in poor repair, lack of ventilation in a car, using a charcoal grill indoors and using unvented space heaters.

To avoid becoming another statistic, the Poison Center offers the following advice:

* Inspect all fuel-burning equipment yearly.

* Vent fuel-burning heaters to the outside.

* Do not use a gas range or oven for heating a room

* Never use a charcoal grill or hibachi inside.

* Install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home.

* Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.

* Have the vehicle muffler and tailpipes checked regularly.

The carbon monoxide death rate is highest among people greater than 65 years of age, and symptoms often resemble other health conditions common among the elderly.

Yes, it's dangerous to be out in the cold, but make sure the place where you stay warm isn't just as dangerous.

For more information, contact the Nebraska Regional Poison Center toll free, free at 1-800-222-1222.

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