Celebrate Fall Safely - Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 | 02:49pm

NASHVILLE – Colorful leaves and cooler weather lure lots of us outdoors during the fall, and may have you looking for ways to warm up on chilly days and nights. As you celebrate the season, the Tennessee Department of Health reminds Tennessee residents and visitors of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. It’s a silent killer you cannot see, smell or taste. Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a gas produced by portable heaters, generators and other devices that is dangerous and potentially deadly if inhaled.

“During the fall Tennessee families may use gas grills or generators during activities like tailgating and camping, and we want to remind everyone of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning to help them stay safe while having fun,” said TDH Chief Medical Officer David Reagan, MD, PhD. “When cooler weather arrives, gas fireplaces and portable heaters can pose a risk, so it’s important to remember to use these devices safely and use carbon monoxide detectors to help prevent illness and death from CO poisoning.”

Carbon monoxide is found in fumes produced by items including small gasoline engines, generators, lanterns, fireplaces, water heaters and stoves, or by burning charcoal or wood. Carbon monoxide can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed areas and can poison or kill people who breathe it.

Follow these tips to help prevent CO poisoning:

  • Never use a gas generator inside your home, garage, carport, basement, crawlspace, tent or camper or outside near a window, door or vent.
  • Generators should only be used outdoors at least 15 feet away from buildings.
  • If using a gas or kerosene heater inside a home or other building, be sure it has been properly maintained and follow all manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Never use a gas range or gas oven to heat your home.
  • Do not use a gas or charcoal grill indoors.
  • Do not burn charcoal in your fireplace.
  • Do not leave a vehicle running in a garage when the door is closed
  • If you have a chimney, have it checked every year by a qualified inspector to make sure it ventilates properly.

TDH recommends use of carbon monoxide detectors as important tools to prevent CO poisoning. CO monitors are widely available at home and hardware stores and can provide an early warning before the gas reaches a dangerous level. CO poisoning often occurs when people have no idea it is happening, such as when they are sleeping.

Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and confusion. Many of these symptoms are similar to common colds or seasonal flu. Breathing high levels of CO can cause loss of consciousness or even death.

If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, turn off possible sources of the gas. Any person who has been exposed to CO should go outside to get fresh air to breathe. If someone is unconscious, open doors and windows to bring in fresh air. For life-threatening carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911. For other questions about carbon monoxide poisoning, call the Tennessee Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

To learn more about carbon monoxide and preventing exposure in your home, visit the TDH Healthy Homes website at http://tn.gov/health/article/carbon-monoxide.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at www.tn.gov/health