March 1, 2013

Marshall Medical Center Emergency Department warns of carbon monoxide dangers

LEWISBURG, Tenn. – Emergency physicians see the tragic consequences of carbon monoxide poisoning each year, especially during the winter months when people use heating devices and stoves to keep warm or use portable generators without proper ventilation.

“This colorless, odorless gas is deadly if you don’t take precautionary steps or notice the symptoms,” said Dr. Andrew Sama, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “Thinking about it now and acting to prevent the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning may save your life and the lives of those around you.”

Carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for approximately 15,000 emergency department visits and nearly 500 deaths annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Carbon monoxide poisoning often is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses.

“Severe headaches and the other symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be easily confused with the flu,” said Dr. Thomas Mitchell, emergency department medical director at Marshall Medical Center. “If more than one person living or working together develops these symptoms over a short period of time, it is possible that carbon monoxide is present and immediate help should be sought.”

To help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning: 

  • Have gas appliances installed or maintained by a qualified professional.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector on each level of your home, especially near sleeping areas.
  • Never leave a motor running of a vehicle parked in an enclosed garage.
  • Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.
  • Never use a charcoal grill indoors.
  • Make sure all gas appliances (grills, camp stoves, power tools, generators, etc.) are properly vented.
  • Turn on the exhaust fan over your gas stove when using it.
  • Never burn anything in a stove or fireplace that is not vented.
  • Have your chimney checked and cleaned every year and make sure fireplace flues are open during use.