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Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide detector on ceiling.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that you cannot see, taste or smell. It is of special concern as the fall approaches, as it can result from faulty heating appliances and cars left running in garages. Each year, over 180 children in the United States die due to carbon monoxide poisoning and more than 20,000 children visit the emergency room.

The Injury Prevention Center at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (ChaD) in partnership with Safe Kids New Hampshire—a coalition led by Dartmouth-Hitchcock to keep kids safe—offers these tips to both prevent and identify carbon monoxide in your home.

  • Make sure your home has a carbon monoxide alarm on on every level, especially near sleeping areas, and keep them at least 15 feet away from fuel burning appliances, like wood stoves.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Don't leave a car, SUV or motorcycle engine running inside a garage, even if the garage doors are open. If you own a hybrid vehicle, and you keep it in the garage, double check that your car is definitely off. CO poisonings have occurred from hybrids that have the gasoline part of the engine turn on and fill the garage and home with CO.
  • Never use your stovetop to heat your home.
  • Don’t use a grill, generator or camping stove inside your home, garage or near a window.
  • On the outside of your home, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow and debris.
  • If your CO alarm sounds, immediately move outdoors or to an open window or door for fresh air, and be sure to account for everyone in your home. Call 911, or the fire department, and remain outside or by the open window until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea and drowsiness. It’s important to know that children process carbon monoxide differently than adults; they can be more severely affected by it and may show signs of poisoning sooner.

The CHaD Injury Prevention Center and Safe Kids New Hampshire want all families to be aware of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, especially for children and the elderly. As part of this effort, a group called the Carbon Monoxide Alliance has formed to address concerns in New Hampshire and Vermont. This alliance is working with partners such as the American Red Cross to get more carbon monoxide alarms in residential homes. For more information about the alliance visit www.vtnhcoalliance.com.


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