As colder winter weather comes in and we crank up the heat, the risk for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can increase significantly due to the fuel-burning devices we use to heat our homes. With temperatures dipping, now is the time to take the necessary precautions to help protect you and your family from the threat of CO. Here’s what you need to know:
THE RISK Known as the “silent killer,” CO is a poisonous, deadly gas responsible for more than 300 deaths each year and is the number one cause of accidental poisonings, according to Statistics Canada. Health Canada reports that CO poisoning is most common during the winter months when more fuel-burning appliances are used to heat homes. CO sources may include, but are not limited to, heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, generators, water heaters and other gas-powered appliances. Attached garages with doors or ventilation shafts connected to a living space can also be sources of CO.
THE SYMPTOMS Many of the symptoms of CO poisoning mimic those of a common cold or flu, and may include headaches, nausea, dizziness, tiredness and shortness of breath. At increased levels or after longer periods of exposure, symptoms of CO poisoning can include chest pain, vomiting, poor vision, brain fog, loss of consciousness and death.
THE PROTECTION Because CO is invisible and odorless, equipping your home with working CO alarms is the only way to detect this poisonous gas. According the National Fire Protection Association, CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including basements. For an easy-to-install option, the First Alert Carbon Monoxide Plug-In Alarm with Battery Backup plugs into any standard electrical socket and the battery backup helps ensure you maintain protection even during a power outage.
For protection against both CO and fire, First Alert 10-Year Battery Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm offers a sealed battery that powers the alarm for a decade – eliminating late-night battery chirps and the need for battery replacements for the life of the alarm. All alarms should be tested regularly and, if using battery operated alarms, the batteries need to be replaced every six months.
If CO symptoms appear, or if an alarm sounds, exit your home immediately and move to fresh air, then call 911. – First Alert, www.firstalert.ca