As temperatures cool and New Mexicans start cranking up the heat, the New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is offering tips on how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
All fuel-burning equipment and appliances such as stoves, ovens, fireplaces, water heaters and generators can produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause permanent damage to the brain and nervous system tissue, or can result in death. Symptoms may include headache, dizziness, aches and confusion. Although carbon monoxide poisoning does not produce fever or diarrhea, symptoms may be confused with the flu.
Since carbon monoxide gas is undetectable by human senses and the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are shared with other seasonal illnesses, prevention and early detection of exposure to carbon monoxide gas is crucial. Please take the following precautions to prevent or minimize the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Properly install a carbon monoxide detector on each floor and outside of every sleeping area of your home. If the alarm sounds on a detector, turn off all fuel-burning devices, open doors and windows and vacate the premises immediately until the source can be identified and repaired by a qualified technician. Inexpensive detectors can be found at any hardware store.
- Have your furnace, fireplace, chimney, wood stoves, flues and other fuel-burning appliances inspected, adjusted and repaired, if needed, before every heating season.
- Do not use charcoal grills indoors (including inside a tent, car or garage) for either cooking or heating—even if doors are opened.
- Do not use your oven to heat your home or put foil underneath a gas oven as this interferes with combustion. Do not use your clothes dryer to heat your home.
- Do not attempt to warm up your car by letting the engine run in an enclosed or attached garage— even if the doors are opened.
- Do not run a generator in your home, garage or crawlspace—ventilating the area by opening windows and doors or using fans will not prevent the accumulation of carbon monoxide gas.
- Contact New Mexico Gas Company immediately at 888-NM-GAS-CO (888-664-2726) to report a gas-related emergency. Refer to New Mexico Gas Company’s website to learn more about carbon monoxide safety and what to look for when shopping for a carbon monoxide detector: http://www.nmgco.com/Safety_and_Emergencies.aspx
- If you think that you or someone you know has been exposed to carbon monoxide gas, call The New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. Our poison center is staffed with specially trained pharmacists who are prepared to respond with information and treatment advice about carbon monoxide poisoning.