Preventing Carbon Monoxide Exposure in your Home

An emergency medicine physician highlights the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and what homeowners can do to stay safe.

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CLEVELAND – As you heat your homes this winter, it’s important to make sure you’re taking the right precautions to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

According to the CDC, roughly 50,000 people in the United States go to the emergency department every year for it. 

“What carbon monoxide does is it displaces oxygen in your blood,” explained Thomas Waters, MD, emergency medicine physician for Cleveland Clinic. “If you’re exposed to carbon monoxide, it is odorless, it is clear, you will not know that you’re being exposed, but it can cause you to have deprived oxygen to all of your body tissues.”

Dr. Waters said the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, light headedness, nausea and vomiting.

With significant exposures, you could collapse and go into cardiac arrest.

So, what can someone do to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

Dr. Waters said first and foremost, make sure you have working detectors in your home.

Things like your furnace and water heater should be serviced annually.

And, don’t forget to clear out debris from vents and flues too.

Finally, if you plan to heat your car in the garage, the garage door needs to be open.

“So anywhere there is combustion going on, whether it’s from a heater or an oven or an engine that’s running, is where carbon monoxide could accumulate,” he said.   

Dr. Waters said if you suspect you are experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, you should go to the hospital to get checked out.

You can also have your local fire department come out to see if there is a carbon monoxide leak in your home.

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