Carbon monoxide poisoning is a scary reality for so many people during the wintertime more than any other time of the year. Why? Because vents are blocked with snow and ice! In fact, the CDC reports that carbon monoxide sends over 15,000 Americans to the ED each year and 439 fatalities on average.

On average, men among women are often at a higher risk for carbon monoxide poisoning as men, more often deal with motorized appliances and machinery that exhaust carbon monoxide. Use the tips below to protect yourself against poisoning by carbon monoxide.

Know the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Persistent, severe headaches and dizziness (usually affecting more than one person in an enclosed area)
  • Nausea, vomiting and fatigue
  • The disappearance of symptoms when individuals leave the structure.

Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Every year you should have a professional technician assess your heating systems, water heaters, and other gas-, oil- or coal-burning appliances.
  • Install either electric or battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors in homes. If battery operated, be sure to change the batteries twice a year when you change the clocks for daylight-saving time (DST).
  • Never use generators, camp stoves, charcoal grills or any other gas- or oil-burning device inside the home.  Never use these devices outside the home near a window
  • Never run a motor vehicle inside the garage, even if the garage door is open
  • Never burn anything in a fireplace or stove that is not vented to the outside
  • Never heat your house with a gas oven
  • Throughout the winter, check to make sure outdoor vents are clear and accessible
  • Make sure to avoid parking your vehicle’s rear end in or near a snow bank.

How is carbon monoxide poisoning treated?

If exposed to carbon monoxide please get into fresh air immediately and call 911 for emergency medical help.  Symptoms of someone with carbon monoxide poisoning may include headache, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, weakness and confusion.

Once you arrive at the hospital, treatment may involve:

  • Breathing pure oxygen. In the emergency department, you may breathe pure oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth. This will help oxygen reach organs and tissues. If you’re unable to breathe on your own, a ventilator will breathe for you
  • Time in a pressurized oxygen chamber. In many cases, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is recommended. This therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a chamber in which the air pressure is about two to three times higher than normal. This process increases the speed by which oxygen in your blood replaces the carbon monoxide in it
    • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is often used in cases of severe carbon monoxide poisoning. This therapy helps protect heart and brain tissue, which are particularly at risk of injury from carbon monoxide poisoning. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also a great treatment alternative for pregnant women as unborn babies are highly susceptible to damage from carbon monoxide poisoning.

How to prepare for your appointment

As soon as you arrive, hospital staff will need information about the carbon monoxide exposure. On the way to the hospital, try to prepare to answer questions which may address:

  • Sources of the carbon monoxide exposure
  • Your symptoms, and when they started
  • If you are experiencing mental impairment such as confusion or memory problems
  • If you’ve experienced any loss of consciousness
  • Other diagnosed medical conditions, including pregnancy
  • Your use of tobacco products.