The outside temperatures are dipping and it's probably time to turn on your furnace and gas or wood-burning appliances. But be careful--carbon monoxide poisoning is a very real threat during the winter months.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas formed when carbon-based fuels--kerosene, gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, charcoal or wood--are burned with inadequate amounts of oxygen. This creates a condition known as incomplete combustion.

What signs and symptoms should I look for?

The early stages of carbon monoxide poisoning produce unexplained flu-like symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and mental confusion. Acute carbon monoxide poisoning induces hypoxic stress because not enough oxygen is reaching vital organs and tissues. Since carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the blood, prolonged exposure can lead to death by asphyxiation.

If anyone in your home (and this includes pets) is experiencing symptoms of possible carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the premises, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately.

Is carbon monoxide poisoning treatable?

Early treatment with hyperbaric medicine can reduce the long-term cardiac or neurological problems associated with carbon monoxide poisoning. EIRMC has Idaho's only multi-place hyperbaric chamber located in a hospital, and we also have a chamber that seats up to twelve people. It is often used when families are receiving treatment for exposure to carbon monoxide.

How can I prevent carbon monoxide?

There is only one safe and reliable way to detect carbon monoxide in your home”install detectors. They should be installed outside every sleeping area, but do not install near gas or wood burning appliances. Routine maintenance and replacement every three to five years is critical.