January is worst month for carbon monoxide poisoning

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Carbon monoxide alarm mounted on the ceiling

Smoke detectors can be a true safeguard for your family, but fire isn’t the only danger you need to be worried about. Carbon monoxide poisoning is just as deadly, but unlike smoke or fire, you can’t always see.

According to data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January is the worst month of the year for carbon monoxide poisoning. But it can happen anytime.  From 1999 to 2004, more than 15,000 people nationwide had to go to the emergency room because of unintentional carbon monoxide exposure. And carbon monoxide killed an average of 439 people each year during that same period.

In April 2017, two people were found dead in their Friday Harbor home. The San Juan County coroner confirmed that Kelli Ashcraft and Troy Sullivan died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dr. Kanta Sircar, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says this is the time of year when risk factors are at their highest.

“In the winters, we have seen more cases of carbon monoxide poisoning than any other time of the year,” said Dr. Sircar. “When the weather gets low, we use our furnace and heating systems more. Furnaces, if they are not properly maintained, can emit carbon monoxide poisoning. “

The CDC recommends that if you’re feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseated and you suspect it could be carbon monoxide poisoning, you should get medical attention immediately.

Dr. Sircar says you can avoid getting sick, or worse, by not heating your house with a gas oven and to never keep your car running inside the garage, even if you leave the garage door open.  She says getting a carbon monoxide detector is a good way to protect yourself and your family.

“First and foremost, install a battery-operated or battery-backup carbon monoxide detector in the home. Or, if you have one already, replace the battery,” said Sircar. “Usually, you want to do that in spring or fall, when you change your clock, but this is a great time to do it.”

Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Upset Stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Chest Pain
  • Confusion

If you experience any of those common symptoms, Sircar says to immediately leave the residence and call 911.

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