During This Severe Flu Season, Be Aware of Carbon Monoxide Dangers Too
As you may know, North Carolina, along with the rest of the country, has been suffering through a severe flu season. Some health experts say it’s comparable to the swine flu pandemic from 2009. As of early February, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported that there have been hundreds of hospital admissions for acute respiratory illness per week and there have been 140 influenza-associated deaths.
Unfortunately, most cases of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning occur during the flu season. Because many CO symptoms mimic the flu—fatigue, dizziness, nausea—many people may not recognize the danger of the situation at first. They may just take to their beds, feeling as if they are “coming down with something.”
That’s why it’s important to have carbon monoxide detectors in your home—especially in your bedrooms. If the detector sounds an alarm, you need to ventilate the home with fresh air right away. If you feel dizzy or drowsy, leave the house immediately. Make sure you check your detectors regularly to make sure they operate properly!
Tracking the cause of carbon monoxide leaks
Finding the source of carbon monoxide can be a complex process sometimes because there are various causes, such as:
- operating unvented appliances for long periods of time.
- a heating system that’s out of adjustment or damaged (a cracked heat exchanger, for instance).
- back drafts caused by pressure imbalances near the heating appliance.
- leaving a vehicle idling in an attached garage.
- running a gasoline-powered generator in a basement or attached garage.
- a blocked flue.
All of these situations could set off a CO detector, but conditions can change by the time a technician arrives, which can make proper diagnosis difficult. You can help by sharing as much information as possible so the technician can identify the problem.
Safety Tips from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
In 2016, 295 people required emergency department care for unintentional, non-fire related carbon monoxide poisoning in North Carolina. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Never use a gas-powered generator or other fuel-burning appliances indoors or in the garage.
- Never use charcoal grills or propane stoves indoors, even in a fireplace.
- Never use a gas oven to heat a home, even for a short amount of time.
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm with an Underwriters Laboratory UL™ listing on each level of a home and near all sleeping areas. Carefully follow the directions to ensure proper alarm placement and check the batteries regularly.
- Replace alarms more than seven years old or when end-of-service indicator chirps.
- Evacuate and call 9-1-1 if a carbon monoxide alarm sounds.
Remember that your propane company can visit your property if you have safety concerns. It’s a good idea for you to schedule a service visit at least once a year so they can check all your propane tanks and appliances for safe operation.