The New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center (NMPDIC) reports a significant uptick in carbon monoxide poisonings this December over the same time period in previous years. The poison center already has identified 28 cases of carbon dioxide poisonings statewide December 1-7, 2016, compared to only six cases December 1-7, 2015, according to director Susan Smolinske, PharmD, DABAT, professor of Pharmacy Practice and Administrative Sciences at UNM’s College of Pharmacy.
As winter temperatures set in, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases with home heating sources and appliances, like fireplaces, water heaters and generators, and even stoves and ovens, all of which can produce carbon monoxide gas.
Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, and can result in death. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, aches and confusion. Although carbon monoxide poisoning does not produce fever or diarrhea, symptoms like nausea and vomiting might 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.
- Have your furnace, fireplace, chimney, wood stove 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 open.
- 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 warm up your car by letting the engine run in an enclosed or attached garage – even if door(s) 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 the New Mexico Gas Company immediately at 888-NM-GAS-CO (888-664-2726) to report a gas related emergency. To learn more about carbon monoxide safety and what to look for when shopping for a carbon monoxide detector, visit New Mexico Gas Company’s website at 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.
To view 2015 rates of carbon monoxide poisoning by county, visit https://nmtracking.org/dataportal/query/selection/pcc/PCCSelection.html.