Carbon monoxide is a danger that most people don’t realize until it is too late. That’s why prevention is the most important step in protecting friends, family and yourself from this hidden danger.

“Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas. It can fill the house up and you would not know it. It bonds with the blood 200 times faster than oxygen will,” Waxahachie Fire Department Battalion Chief Gary Myers said. “You get carbon monoxide from gas products anywhere you may have an open flame. So if you have an all-electric house then you don’t have to be concern of Carbon Monoxide.”

Carbon monoxide poisoning mimics the flu. Some of the symptoms include aching shoulders, headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain confusion and a lethargic feeling. Later symptoms from long exposure can include redness in your cheeks or skin.

Myers said one way people can tell if they have been poisoned is that if they and their family members show flu symptoms all at the same time. While the flu can be passed from person to person symptoms of the virus show up over extended periods of time.  

Another way people can tell they have been poisoned is that if they leave their house felling sick and return feeling healthy. When they enter home again if flu symptoms return quickly it is a good indication of carbon monoxide poisoning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Carbon Monoxide poisoning is responsible for approximately 15,000 emergency department visits and nearly 500 deaths annually in the United States.

“This colorless, odorless gas is deadly if you don’t take precautionary steps or notice the symptoms,” said Dr. Andrew Sama, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “Thinking about it now and acting to prevent the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning may save your life and the lives of those around you.”

Simple steps that homeowners can take to prevent this type of poisoning includes having gas appliances installed and maintained by a licensed professional, not using portable flameless heaters or charcoal grills indoors, making sure all gas appliances are properly vented, inspecting chimneys and have them cleaned each year.

Myers said if residents are warming up a vehicle make sure and open up the garage all the way and not leave it a crack open. This will make the area safe and prevent the build up of this dangerous gas.

But the best step to alert homeowners of this danger is to purchase carbon monoxide detector. These detectors are available at any home improvement store and can range $10-$50.  One detector is needed per floor and should be mounted close to the bedroom area of the residence.

“Most detectors will alarm in two ways. The high level alarm sounds like a smoke detector with a solid beep,” Myers said. “A low level alarm is long beep but with breaks in it. It tells you the difference between them.”

Myers said high-level alarms are triggered by anything over 100 parts per million and low level alarms are triggered by anything over nine parts per million.  If an alarm is triggered, leave the residence and call 9-1-1 from a cell phone or a neighbor’s house.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that these detectors be replaced every five years.

Myers said while the test button detector only tests to see if the batteries are good and the circuits are in working order but not the sensor. If an alarm does sound or if residents do have concerns members of the fire department will be glad to come out and test for carbon monoxide.

Since time change is taking place on Sunday it is important to change batteries in both the smoke and the carbon monoxide detectors. People needing assistance with changing batteries in these devices can contact the fire department.

For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning or other emergency related issues, go to www.EmergencyCareForYou.org.

Follow Andrew on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AndrewBrancaWDL or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AndrewBrancaWNI. Contact him at andrew.branca@waxahachietx.com or 469-517-1451