Produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, including gas, oil, coal and wood, carbon monoxide is an odorless silent killer that displaces oxygen from the bloodstream when inhaled, undermining function of the heart and brain.
“Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can range from mild headaches, dizziness and confusion to more severe symptoms like nausea, fatigue, convulsions and even loss of consciousness,” says Kausik Kar, MD, Medical Director of the Hyperbaric Unit at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). “But often, the milder symptoms may be mistaken for illnesses like flu or food poisoning, and not addressed, leading to more serious and possibly fatal complications.”
Dr. Kar recommends these tips: Inspect and service chimneys and vents annually; use generators and charcoal grills outdoors only, far from the house; install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms; and open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire and keep it open until ashes have cooled to prevent toxic build-up in the home. If you notice symptoms of poisoning, seek fresh air and medical attention immediately.
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