Be on guard against a potentially deadly threat in your home

OMAHA, Neb. Health officials say Nebraska has one of the highest carbon monoxide mortality rates in the country and this is the peak time of year for the threat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 400 deaths and approximately 15,000 emergency room visits each year as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. The highest percentage of carbon monoxide exposures occur during the months of November, December, January and February.

Calls to the Nebraska Regional Poison Center regarding carbon monoxide have already exceeded last year’s exposures even with a mild fall season. It's important to understand the dangers, the symptoms and how to prevent poisoning from carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas produced when fuels burn incompletely. It has no color, taste or smell. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include sleepiness, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, vomiting, shortness of breath and convulsions.

The first step in treating carbon monoxide poisoning is getting the victim to fresh air. Then seek medical attention immediately.

The Poison Center offers the following suggestions to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home
  • Inspect all fuel-burning equipment yearly
  • Vent fuel-burning heaters to the outside
  • Do not use a gas range or an oven for heating a room
  • Never use a charcoal or gas grill inside
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open
  • Generators should be run at a safe distance from the home – never next to a window, door or vent
  • Have vehicle muffler and tailpipes checked regularly

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning resemble those associated with other health conditions that are common among the elderly, especially in the winter. The carbon monoxide death rate is highest among people older than 65.

Effective January 1, 2017, a Nebraska State Law requires carbon monoxide alarms in all residences that are sold, rented or remodeled. The Nebraska Regional Poison Center encourages all residences to have a carbon monoxide alarm.

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning or have any questions, contact the Nebraska Regional Poison Center toll-free at 1-800-222-1222. Nurse Specialists are available 24/7 to assist.