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President's Prescription: Carbon Monoxide

Published: Jan. 3, 2015 at 3:49 AM CST|Updated: Sep. 7, 2015 at 3:03 AM CDT
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Winter weather brings increased concern when driving or working outside, but it is important to consider the risks indoors as well. Carbon monoxide from your household heater can very quickly put your family in danger.

I am so thankful for the comfort and efficiency of modern heating. During these cold months, it's wonderful to come home to a cozy place to enjoy with family and friends. However, there are real dangers with a home or car heater that isn't functioning or used properly. Practice these precautions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

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Install carbon monoxide detectors.

Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, so it's important to have working detectors outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home. Test your carbon monoxide detectors regularly. If possible, connect all the detectors in your home, so that if one sounds, they all sound.

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Be prepared.

Everyone in your home should be familiar with the difference between the carbon monoxide alarm sound and the smoke alarm sound, and know how to respond to each. When testing your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, record the sounds on a voice recorder or cell phone, so that you can practice telling them apart with your family.

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Open the garage door before starting your car.

Many of us prefer to drive in a warm car and choose to let our car run for a few minutes before getting inside. However, the carbon monoxide expelled from your car's exhaust can quickly fill a garage. Allow the garage door to open fully before you start your car.

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Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

If carbon monoxide is present in your home and goes undetected, you will begin to experience headache, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, fatigue and confusion. The sudden onset of these symptoms should prompt you to leave the house or office immediately.

Carbon monoxide poisoning sends 20,000 people to the emergency room and claims 500 lives in the U.S. each year. Following these simple steps can help keep your family warm, safe and healthy this winter. For maintaining good health, I'm Dr. Tedd Mitchell.