November 22, 2013

Marshall Medical Center offers tips for winter heating safety

LEWISBURG, Tenn. – When the temperatures drop during the winter months, heaters help us to stay warm. However, some heating sources can pose danger when proper care is not taken. Marshall Medical Center’s (MMC’s) Emergency Department and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) offer advice on the safe use of winter heating sources.

According to ACEP, each year people are burned, start fires, get shocked and even die from carbon monoxide poisoning because they do not take proper precautions.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning is a prime concern during the fall and winter heating season. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and even death when it is inhaled,” said Dr. Thomas Mitchell, MMC emergency department director.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Loss of consciousness can occur if high levels are inhaled.

“Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector, and if you have any of these symptoms, you should seek emergency care,” said Dr. Mitchell.

When preparing your home’s winter heating source, the following safety advice is recommended: 

  • Check all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make certain they are in working order and have fresh batteries. There should be one of each detector on every floor of your house.
  • Have a professional inspect your gas furnace at least once a year. A furnace with leaks or cracks can be dangerous, leaking carbon monoxide or possibly causing a fire.
  • If you use a fireplace, have a professional inspect and clean it every year. Also make sure any flammable materials are kept away from the open flame area. Never burn trash, cardboard boxes or items that may contain chemicals that can release toxins. 
  • If you use a wood-burning stove, have a professional inspect and clean the chimney each year. Make sure you have a safe perimeter around the heater. Place the heater on a flame-resistant surface, use a screen to prevent sparks and hot coals from coming out of the stove.
  • Never use a range (electric or gas) or oven as a heating source. It is not only a fire hazard; it can release dangerous fumes such as carbon monoxide.
  • If you use an electric space heater, make sure it is away from water or anything flammable like curtains, paper, blankets or furniture. Check for any faulty wiring that can cause electric shock or fire.
  • Supervise children and pets around space heaters and turn them off before leaving the room or going to sleep.