Carbon monoxide safety
With winter underway, it is important to highlight a health hazard and easily preventable cause of death. Every year in the United States, about 500 children and adults die of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas, and dangerous levels can go undetected because it is odorless and accumulates over time. Everyone is at risk from common household sources of carbon monoxide, including faulty furnaces, portable heaters, gas appliances and vehicle exhaust. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning range from sleepiness, headache, nausea, difficulty breathing and confusion to coma and death. Children often develop symptoms before adults.
Many carbon monoxide deaths occur while families are sleeping, so it is important to place carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas. They can be purchased for $10-$15. It is also important to maintain furnaces, fireplaces and appliances and avoid leaving vehicles running, even in open garages.
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Kristin Johansen, M.D., of Kansas City, is a pediatric resident. She is a graduate of the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine in Greenville, N.C.