Avoid Carbon Monoxide Dangers During Cold Weather

January is National Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Awareness Month and with recent temperatures becoming frigid across the state, DHEC has some helpful tips to prevent your family from becoming victims to a silent killer, carbon monoxide.

Temperatures are dropping, forcing many families to use space heaters in efforts to stay warm, but it’s these colder months that pose a threat to families.

You Can Prevent Carbon Monoxide Exposure by:

  • Having your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Installing a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds leave your home immediately and call 911.
  • Seeking prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.
  • Not using a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.
  • Not running your car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Not burning anything in or using a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
  • Not heating your house with a gas oven.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a silent killer. It is an odorless and colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled.

On average, nine South Carolinians die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning and these types of preventable events annually result in 243 hospitalizations and 1,713 visits to the emergency department. Annually, carbon monoxide poisonings cost the state of South Carolina about $7.5 million in hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

Hospitalizations and ED visits due to carbon monoxide poisoning have risen since 2000, by an average of 5 percent each year, which is statistically significant. Hospitalization rates due to CO poisoning have risen by 60 percent since 2000.

Sources of CO poisoning include gas-powered generators, charcoal grills, propane stoves, and charcoal briquettes for both cooking and heating indoors, motor vehicles, fire, boats, and power washers and other gas powered tools.

At-risk populations include babies and infants, the elderly, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia or respiratory illness.

To find answers to frequently asked questions about carbon monoxide or links to find additional prevention tips, please visit cdc.gov/co/guidelines.htm.

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