Carbon monoxide poisoning dangers increase in winter

As heating appliances come on, risk increases

WICHITA, Kan. - Colder weather means more homes will turn up the heat, and Safe Kids Kansas says that could increase the risk of Carbon monoxide poisoning.

An average of 13 people die in Kansas each year from CO poisoning, with an average of 430 deaths from CO poisoning each year across the country. The deadly gas buildup can be caused by furnaces, ovens, space heaters, generators, grills and fireplaces that are not properly maintained or used in well-ventilated areas.

"Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless," said Cherie Sage with Safe Kids Kansas. "It's sometimes referred to as the 'silent killer.'" Sage said the symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to symptoms of common winter ailments like the cold or flu.

"So, without having a Carbon monoxide detector in your home, you may have a fuel-burning appliance or something that is creating Carbon monoxide levels, and you may be poisoned without even realizing it's happening," Sage said.

Sage said a CO detector can help keep you and your family safe. She said you can find a Carbon monoxide detector at most hardware or retail stores for around $20.

Safe Kids Kansas also has a few tips on preventing CO poisoning:

  • Prevent CO buildup by making sure heating appliances are in good working order and used only in well-ventilated areas. Don't run a car engine or any other gas powered tool in the garage, even with the garage doors open. If you need to warm up your vehicle, move it outside first.
  • Install CO detectors in the hallway near the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home. Keep detectors at least 15 inches from all fuel-burning appliances.
  • Follow manufacturer's directions for installation, testing and using CO detectors.
  • Never use an oven or gas range for heating.
  • Only use portable generators, gas camp stoves, and charcoal grills outside with proper ventilation.
  • If more than one person in the home suddenly feels ill for no apparent reason, or if a CO alarm goes off, get everyone outside immediately and call 911. Pay attention to pets, sometimes they will show signs of illness first.
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