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Tune up heaters, turn up caution; Experts warn about carbon monoxide poisoning

Jan 6, 2022, 6:21 AM | Updated: 6:36 am
carbon monoxide poisoning...
Carbon monoxide detector, one preventative measure to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Photo: Canva

SALT LAKE CITY —  Winter brings a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. As temperatures drop, Utahns turn up their fuel burning heaters, mechanisms that can produce the deadly and lethal gas. 

Intermountain Healthcare sent out a news release about the dangers of carbon monoxide on Wednesday. The release included a message of caution, and some reminders and tips for how to minimize the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning this winter. 

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas. Because it is virtually undetectable by humans, it’s dubbed the “invisible killer,” said the IMHC release.

In the United States, carbon monoxide is the number one cause of death by poisoning. According to the CDC, no one is exempt from the risk carbon monoxide poisoning poses. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires. More than 20,000 Americans visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized from interactions with the gas.

“When the furnaces turn on, the carbon monoxide detectors should also get a checkup.”

According to the IMHC release. carbon monoxide can be produced by any fuel-burning equipment such as fireplaces, gas stoves, water heaters, furnaces, space heaters, portable generators and chimneys.

“When the furnaces turn on, the carbon monoxide detectors should also get a checkup,” said Dr. Marc Robins, hyperbaric medicine specialist at Intermountain Utah Valley Hospital.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be similar to COVID-19 and flu symptoms, said Dr. Robins. Dr. Robins advised individuals with these symptoms, and any suspicion of exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide, to seek medical help.

Once poisoned, individuals may run the risk of permanent brain or cardiac injury. Treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning can reduce this risk. However, even with prompt oxygen therapy, disability can still occur.

Steps to reduce risk

  • Schedule an annual check-up, for your furnace and hot water heater. It’s important to have all gas-fired furnaces and hot water heaters checked by heating and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals annually. Furnaces can crack and become obstructed.
  • Every home and business should have a carbon monoxide monitor and alarmCarbon monoxide monitors and alarms can be hard-wired, battery-powered or plugged in. Most need to be replaced every five to seven years.
  • Check any chimney flues for blockage
  • Don’t keep cars running in enclosed spaces, such as garages
  • Be aware of symptoms. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be lethal, sometimes with no advance sign of trouble. This is especially true when people are exposed during their sleep and are unaware or unable to call for help.

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Tune up heaters, turn up caution; Experts warn about carbon monoxide poisoning