Thursday, December 1, 2016

Avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning this winter

Chilly weather is setting in and the thought of waking up earlier to warm up your vehicle before work can leave many feeling cold.

If you choose to warm up your car it is important to do so safely. Before you turn that key, be aware of your surroundings. If you are in an enclosed place with no air circulation you could be putting yourself at risk from carbon monoxide gas exposure.
Also known as “the silent killer” carbon monoxide (or CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that can be dangerous if precautions are not taken to avoid poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning a year. In that same time frame, more than 20,000 visit emergency rooms and 4,000 are hospitalized.

Symptoms from CO poisoning can be easily confused with the flu. The most common symptoms include: headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, chest pain, confusion and vomiting.

Here are some ways you can prevent CO exposure while you are operating or inside a vehicle:
  •  Most drivers understand that starting your car in an enclosed garage is not a good idea. But starting a car with a garage attached to your home could put you in danger as well.
  • Similarly, never start your car inside a garage, even if the doors are open. It is best to back out and close the garage door before you start your car. 
  • Be sure to have your exhaust system checked by a mechanic every year. A small leak in the system could cause CO to build up in your car.
  • Clear the tailpipe of any ice or snow during inclement weather. If the exhaust pipe is blocked, CO could build up in your car as well.
  • Keyless ignition vehicles are growing in popularity. They should always be checked to make sure they are turned off. The car could still be running, even if the keys are not inside.
  • Keep the doors locked, and keep children away from the keys. Never leave a child unattended where they could have access to the car and never leave them inside a car alone.
It is a busy time of year, and mistakes do happen. It is a good idea to purchase a CO detector for you home just in case. Most injuries and deaths occur while the victims are sleeping.

For more information on how to prevent CO poisoning in your home or work check out the CDC’s safety guidelines here.

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