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Stay safe from CO poisoning as temps drop

As temperatures drop during the late fall and into winter, the threat of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning increases. But there are simple ways to keep you and your home safe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 50,000 emergency room visits each year in the U.S. due to CO poisoning and 430 accidental deaths. Those instances are most abundant during the winter months.

Some of the ways we try to keep warm during the coldest time of the year also create the most dangerous situations for CO poisoning. CO is a colorless and odorless gas found in fumes produced by furnaces, kerosene heaters, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges, portable generators, burning charcoal and wood, and in garages while cars are running to warm up.

“CO poisoning is when your red blood cells get depleted from oxygen and CO replaces it,” Maury Regional Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director Michael Dunavant said. “This causes the body to react with headaches, flushed red skin and nausea and could lead to unresponsiveness and/or death.”

Some common symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. It’s important to call 911 or a health care professional right away if you suspect CO poisoning, and leave your home immediately if the CO detector sounds.

There are plenty of easy ways to prevent CO poisoning, such as getting your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil or coal burning appliances serviced each year by a qualified technician. Keeping vents and flues free of debris can also help, and CO detector batteries should be checked every six months, at least.

You also should never leave your vehicle running in an enclosed space, and never use a charcoal grill or stove, generator, pressure washer or any other gasoline-powered engine in an enclosed space or near an open window or door.

“It is very important to make sure that you have well-ventilated areas when using these items,” Dunavant said. “If you start to experience or notice others experiencing symptoms, it is important to move outside to fresh air and seek medical attention. EMS has CO monitoring on their cardiac monitors, and fire departments will respond to perform CO monitoring in the residence.”

For more information on Maury Regional Health’s EMS team and ambulance services, visit