Riggs issues precautions on carbon monoxide poisoning

Riggs Ambulance Service issued several tips and precautions about carbon monoxide poisoning.

With the winter months quickly approaching, heaters are being used, and the danger of carbon monoxide must be recognized, the Merced company said in a news release. Heating units, space heaters and even automobiles can cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide to build up in the home. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, invisible gas that can build up near fuel-burning appliances such as ovens, generators and supplemental heaters. Each year, more than 10,000 Americans are temporarily or permanently disabled by accidental exposure to CO.

Riggs' recommendations for precautions against CO poisoning:

Prevent CO buildup in the first place; make sure heating appliances are in good working order and used only in well-ventilated areas. Have a qualified technician inspect fuel-burning appliances at least once each year. Fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, hot water heaters and stoves require yearly maintenance. Over time, components can become damaged or deteriorate. A qualified technician can identify and repair problems with your fuel-burning appliances. Be alert to the danger signs that signal a CO problem: streaks of carbon or soot around the service door of your fuel-burning appliances; the absence of a draft in your chimney; excessive rusting on flue pipes or appliance jackets; moisture collecting on the windows and walls of furnace rooms; fallen soot from the fireplace; small amounts of water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent or flue pipe; damaged or discolored bricks at the top of your chimney and rust on the portion of the vent pipe visible from outside your home. Be aware that CO poisoning may be the cause of flu-like symptoms such as headaches, tightness of chest, dizziness, fatigue, confusion and breathing difficulties. Because CO poisoning often causes a victim's blood pressure to rise, the victim's skin may take on a pink or red cast. Don’t run a car engine in the garage, even to warm it up; move the car outside first. Install a CO detector outside every sleeping area and on every floor of the home. Detectors should be installed at least 15 feet from fuel-burning appliances. Check the batteries monthly (when you check your smoke alarm batteries) Never use a barbecue or other similar outdoor devises inside a home for heating purposes. Know how to respond to a CO detector alarm. If your alarm sounds, immediately open windows and doors for ventilation. If anyone in the home is experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning (headache, dizziness or other flu-like symptoms) immediately evacuate the house and call 9-1-1. If no one is experiencing these symptoms, continue to ventilate, turn off fuel-burning appliances and call a qualified technician to inspect your heating system and appliances as soon as possible. Because you have provided ventilation, the CO buildup may have dissipated by the time help responds and your problem may appear to be temporarily solved. Do not operate any fuel-burning appliances until you have clearly identified the source of the problem. A CO detector alarm indicates elevated levels of CO in the home. Never ignore the alarm. Remember that cigarette smoke is another source of carbon monoxide.