How Carbon Monoxide Can Kill and What You Can Do

Many people associate carbon monoxide with automobiles, but the reality is carbon monoxide can be a threat inside your home. Carbon monoxide is something that should not be taken lightly, and it is important to recognize that this lethal gas can affect you and members of your household without even setting foot inside a vehicle. Below is more information about carbon monoxide poisoning, including how you can prevent it from occurring, and what should be done if you believe you have been exposed to it.

How Carbon Monoxide Kills

Carbon monoxide consists of one atom of carbon and one element of oxygen bound together to form a chemically simple molecule. Though both carbon and oxygen are essential to human life in other forms, they form a sinister combination when bound together as carbon monoxide. The specific danger posed by carbon monoxide is that red blood cells will absorb carbon monoxide and turn away oxygen. As a result, oxygen starvation inside the human body occurs which will ultimately cause cellular death. Should this occur at high enough concentrations, affected individuals will eventually suffocate.

The Nature of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

To make things worse, carbon monoxide cannot be detected by smell, taste or sight. That means individuals within enclosed spaces are particularly vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning and often are afflicted without even knowing of its existence. Because of this, more Americans are killed on an annual basis by carbon monoxide than any other toxic substance. Hundreds die each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning, while thousands more are stricken ill enough to seek medical attention. Another particularly troublesome aspect of carbon monoxide poisoning is its superficial similarity to other serious diseases. For example, carbon monoxide poisoning often starts with a headache and a general feeling of sickness. At other times carbon monoxide poisoning can cause nausea and dizziness. That means people can be deceived into thinking they are ill with a contagious disease rather than carbon monoxide poisoning. This problem especially accelerates during influenza season as the symptoms are similar and some of the problems that cause carbon monoxide poisoning are also more prevalent during the winter. As an example, individuals operate their furnaces at the same time that flu season is in full swing.

What Can Be Done about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be treated if caught in time and if the condition is accurately diagnosed. Primary efforts to treat carbon monoxide poisoning center around removing the carbon monoxide molecules from the bloodstream and replacing them with oxygen. This can be accomplished by the use of oxygen therapy administered through a mask, which will accelerate the process of pushing the carbon monoxide back out of the blood cells. Other treatment options include the use of pressurized oxygen, called hyperbaric medicine, which provides for a more intense level of oxygen saturation. If you believe you have been exposed to carbon monoxide, don’t delay getting medical assistance. Even if you recover from the short-term negative effects, long-term exposure can cause impaired thinking and mental functioning.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Ultimately, best way to handle carbon monoxide poisoning it to prevent it from occurring in the first place. A leading source of carbon monoxide poisoning inside homes are malfunctioning furnaces, though other sources are certainly possible. That means homeowners should take definite steps toward preventing poisoning by their furnaces, including those below.

Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Every home should contain multiple smoke detectors, but way too few homes are equipped with even one carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide detectors are small, nondescript devices that can be situated in a variety of location throughout a house. Like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors also pick up the presence of gases that might slip through without notice. Carbon monoxide detectors can be individually set up or linked to one another to create a warning network inside the house. They do require battery changes on occasion to ensure they are working correctly, and carbon monoxide detectors also possess limited useful lives due to containing sensors that deteriorate over time.

Obtain Regular Servicing of Furnace and Chimney

Another critical step to take in preventing carbon monoxide poisoning is to obtain regular servicing of your furnace and fireplace. Both of these are “ground zero” for combustion, it is essential that they work as intended and are able to eliminate combustion byproducts, including carbon monoxide. As an example, your furnace service provider will need to regularly check the gas burner settings to ensure the furnace is burning up as much fuel as possible. Faulty combustion generates a significant amount of carbon monoxide. Chimneys can also prove to be dangerous, as they tend to accumulate byproducts that can produce carbon monoxide as they are heated. A chimney sweep can properly clean out the chimney and fireplace in order to prevent this from occurring. If you have questions about carbon monoxide poisoning or preventing it from harming you or a loved one, be sure to contact Magnolia Plumbing for help. Their professionals are ready to assist you in any way possible.