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As cooler temperatures descend on much of the United States, most of us will be spending more time indoors trying to stay warm.  The bad news is that doing so can increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas with the chemical symbol CO.  It causes harm by replacing oxygen in the bloodstream, resulting in sudden acute illness and, often, death.  Carbon monoxide is present any time fuel is burned – when those fumes become concentrated they can quickly overwhelm people and animals.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, difficulty breathing, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.  If you experience any of these symptoms and CO poisoning is a possibility, leave the area immediately and seek fresh air.  Do not return until after emergency services have cleared the hazard.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is avoidable.  The CDC provides a list of actions to take to reduce the risk of illness or death from CO fumes, which includes:

  • Have working, battery-powered CO monitors in your home and other high-risk areas;
  • Get your heating system, water heater, and other appliances serviced by a qualified technician;
  • Make sure your home is vented properly;
  • Do not use charcoal or portable gas stoves indoors;
  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned every year.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be sudden and fatal, so you may never get a second chance to prevent the risks.  Do it now before it is too late.

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