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Stay warm safely: Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning was blamed for many of the deaths during last February's winter storm. Here are some ways to protect your family from the silent killer.

HOUSTON — With the potential for freezing temperatures, folks will want to stay warm. But that can mean trouble and lead to carbon monoxide poisoning if you're not careful.

Colorless and odorless carbon monoxide starves the brain of oxygen. It can cause brain damage and even death.

Dozens of Houston-area residents went to the hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning during the deadly winter storm last February.

 “At Memorial Hermann in the Medical Center, since we have the hyperbaric oxygen chamber, we tend to see most of the (carbon monoxide) transports in the city," said Dr. Samuel Prater, a UTHealth Houston/Memorial Hermann Emergency Room physician. 

"We'll typically see 50 to 60 on an average year. Last year during the winter storm, we saw our annual volume on the first day of that event."

Carbon monoxide poisoning was blamed for many of the deaths during that arctic blast. The victims included a Houston mom and her little girl who died while trying to stay warm inside their car in the garage.

How to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Experts remind us the best thing you can do is get a carbon monoxide detector. They're available for about $15.  
  • Don’t run a vehicle inside a garage attached to your house, even if the garage door is open.
  • Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn't vented.
  • Don’t heat your house with a gas oven.
  • Don’t use a generator less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.  Get an extension cord.

Here are some of the warning signs:

  • Dull headache
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness

The first thing to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning is to get outside and get some fresh air and then call for help.

For more: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (CO) | Disease or Condition of the Week | CDC


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