The Threat of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Increases, As Winter Temperatures Decrease|
Jan 23, 2014
The drastically cold temperatures in our area, have increased the risk for acute domestic carbon monoxide poisoning. Faulty heating systems, such as space heaters, fireplaces, furnaces and water heaters, along with power blackouts and the use of cheaper, but dangerous, heating methods during difficult economic times make fall and winter the prime time for deaths caused by carbon monoxide (CO), often called the “invisible killer.” An estimated 15,000 emergency department visits and 500 unintentional deaths in the United States occur each year as a result of accidental CO exposure.
CO is a colorless, odorless toxic gas produced by incomplete combustion of fuel. At low levels, symptoms are very deceptive, because they can resemble the flu, food poisoning or other illnesses. Even healthcare professionals might not immediately suspect CO poisoning. Minor to moderate levels of exposure can trigger headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. Victims can become mentally confused or even faint.
“It is easy to overlook the symptoms of CO poisoning, and prolonged exposure can be fatal. Know the symptoms of CO poisoning and never ignore them, especially if others are experiencing them too. The consequence for not acting can be severe neurological damage or death,” says Jeffrey P. Sternlicht, M.D., F.A.C.E.P., chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at GBMC . “Get to the hospital for emergency care immediately and say that you suspect CO poisoning. If you call an ambulance, make sure the ambulance crew knows you have symptoms of CO poisoning.”
GBMC's Emergency Department (ED)
CONTACT: John M. Lazarou