Often called the “silent killer”, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that kills hundreds and hospitalizes thousands of people in the United States every year. Stephen Sayles, MD, emergency medicine physician at Richard E. Jacobs Health Center, says that although it can happen at any time, there is a greater risk for carbon monoxide poisoning in the winter months due to faulty furnaces, gas appliances, leaving cars running in closed garages, poor ventilation and winter storms.
“When carbon monoxide is breathed in, it attaches to red blood cells and blocks oxygen from getting into the body,” explains Dr. Sayles. “These deadly fumes can damage tissues and result in serious injury or even death.”
“Some common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and a change in mental state like confusion,” says Dr. Sayles. “It’s important that a person experiencing these symptoms seek medical attention immediately.”
Dr. Sayles further offers the following steps to take to help prevent exposure to carbon monoxide:
– Install battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors in your house and check them regularly. Be sure to place them near bedrooms and living areas.
– Have gas or oil furnaces inspected by a qualified professional every year.
– Do not leave vehicles running in the garage for long, especially if the garage doors are closed and attached to the house.
– Do not use a gas range or oven for heating the home.
– Never use a charcoal grill inside the home.
The Richard E. Jacobs Health Center Emergency Department offers 24-hour emergency care and is located at 33100 Cleveland Clinic Boulevard, Avon, Ohio 44011.