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  • UnityPoint Health® Raises Awareness on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Risk

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    December 17, 2018
    UnityPoint Health® is advising the community to follow proper heating system instructions and look for signs of carbon monoxide poisoning when heating their homes for the first time this season. Although carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t very common, the majority of carbon monoxide poisoning cases and deaths occur within the first month temperatures begin to drop and people turn on their heating.

    “When someone has carbon monoxide poisoning, oxygen can’t be carried to parts of the body that are essential for living like the brain and heart. It’s like your suffocating on the inside,” says UnityPoint Health ER physician, Dr. Nathan Fredrick. 

    Dizziness, headache, nausea, and skin flushing are early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Later symptoms include shortness of breath, altered mental status, coma, and death.

    “It’s especially important to keep in mind there are people who are more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning than others such as children, pregnant women, elders, and those with pre-existing lung problems,” Fredrick says.

    He urges removing those with symptoms out of the affected environment as soon as possible and transporting them for immediate medical evaluation. 

    “People experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms receive oxygen until they’re stabilized. We run tests to confirm their treatment is working properly. Depending on how much carbon monoxide was absorbed by their body they may be able to go home that very day or hospitalization may be required. For very severe cases, they may need to be isolated in a hyperbaric chamber,” Fredrick says.

    Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas. It’s recommended every home have a carbon monoxide detector. Furnaces and heaters should be checked before using to ensure proper operation and minimize the risk of carbon monoxide leaks. Space heaters and kerosene fueled heating systems should be placed in an area of the home with access to proper ventilation.

    “It’s very important to take special precautions every year before the weather transitions to the colder months. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly. Knowing how to prevent it and early signs to look for will keep families safe. Early intervention leads to successful treatment and a full recovery,” Fredrick says.