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Is carbon monoxide poisoning more likely in the winter?
How would I know if I'm inhaling carbon monoxide?Carbon monoxide levels in your body can become deadly within minutes and you won't see it, smell it or taste it. Headaches, dizziness and nausea are common symptoms. As carbon monoxide builds up in the blood, confusion, drowsiness, fast breathing, fast heartbeat, possible chest pain, vision problems and even seizures can result.
Is carbon monoxide poisoning always sudden?No, a low level of poisoning can lead to heart problems and brain damage over time. If you frequently have headaches, ongoing shortness of breath and nausea when inside but feel better in fresh air, ask people living or working with you if they've noticed similar symptoms. Also, keep an eye on your pets; they also can become sick from ongoing low levels.
What should I do if I think I am being exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning?If you have sudden symptoms, leave the house immediately. Staying may result in your losing consciousness and being unable to get out. Call 9-1-1 after you leave the building, or go to the nearest emergency room. If you've had ongoing symptoms and suspect CO poisoning, make an appointment with your doctor. A blood test can measure whether or not you have carbon monoxide poisoning. With quick treatment, most people recover within a few days.
How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?Check chimneys and vents regularly to make sure they aren't blocked or leaking. Have a professional clean, inspect and service chimneys and vents before the heating season each year as well as any additional fuel-burning appliances you have. Never use gas-based heaters in small, enclosed areas. Don't use a gas oven to heat your home. Don't use a gas or charcoal grill indoors. Donít close the fireplace or stove damper before the fire is completely out. Don't leave vehicles running in the garage ó even if the garage doors are open. Install carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas in your home. Detectors wonít prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, but they will alert you and help you get out safely.
Dr. Krissondra Klop is a family medicine physician at Sanford South Clinic. A graduate of the Des Moines (Iowa) University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Klop completed a family medicine residency at Munson Family Practice Residency Program in Traverse City, Mich.