Hopefully all of us are aware of the importance of having smoke detectors in our homes. But something I often find lacking is the placement of carbon monoxide (CO) monitors as well; and so when we talk about smoke detectors, CO monitors should be always mentioned simultaneously.
Briefly, carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that can cause significant physical harm before we might even think about it. It’s responsible for about 40,000 emergency room visits per year and up to 5,000-6000 deaths per year…although many of these deaths are felt to be intentional. Typically, it becomes a greater issue during the winter months when homes are using heating systems or other fuel-burning devices…particularly when a device is not working or being used inappropriately.
When CO is absorbed through the lung tissue, at mild levels, it can cause headache, fatigue, nausea and dizziness. At higher levels, it can lead to seizures, fainting, comas and associated heart and lung related complications. And regardless of the level, the number one treatment measure is to remove the individual from the source of the CO and begin high-flow oxygen by face mask. At higher levels of exposure and pending the symptoms, intubation may be needed and in some cases hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a necessity.
But since you all know I am all about prevention, let me share some rather simple guidelines to follow when it comes to CO prevention. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommendations include placing CO monitors near bedrooms and to make sure furnaces, fireplaces and heaters are inspected routinely. Furthermore, never leave your car idling in the garage and always put your grills, kerosene heaters and portable stoves outdoors. Following these simple measures can save a life.
- Dr. Jeremy
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