Did you know carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can kill you? Nena J. Bowman, managing director of Tennessee Poison Center, joined us on a recent episode of Community Health Matters to discuss the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. View her segment here.
Each year as temperatures drop, tragic stories of carbon monoxide poisoning tend to rise. The dangerous gas is produced by the combustion process in devices that generate heat. When inhaled, it prevents your body from processing oxygen. Initial symptoms are flu-like, such as headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting and sleepiness. The longer your body is exposed to the poisonous gas symptoms can progress to memory loss and confusion, then seizures and even death.
Carbon monoxide is almost impossible to detect without proper equipment due to its lack of odor and color. To protect you and your family, install a battery-operated or battery back-up carbon monoxide detector in your home. In addition, never use portable generators indoors, use a grill indoors, use a gas range or oven for heating, or use a fireplace that isn’t vented.
Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage. And never run a motor vehicle, generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from an open window, door, or vent where exhaust can vent into an enclosed area. Without adequate ventilation, carbon monoxide can linger in the area for a long time and travel into your home.
If you suspect you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, get outside to fresh air immediately, then call emergency services. To learn more about the dangers of carbon monoxide, go to the CDC.gov/CO.
Tennessee Poison Center is a comprehensive poison resource center located on the campus of Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The Poison Help hotline is staffed by poison specialists 24 hours a day, every day, and can be contacted at 800-222-1222.