Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is the number one type of poisoning in the US, and the number of carbon monoxide poisoning incidents goes way up in the winter. However, carbon monoxide is not just a winter problem.
Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning and any combustion engine can be a source. We usually talk about CO poisoning in the context of fireplaces and heaters, but during the summer boats are a significant source of CO poisoning. Barbecues and backyard grills produce lots of carbon monoxide and if there isn't adequate ventilation around, they can be deadly.
Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can lead to symptoms resembling a viral infection: nausea and vomiting, headaches, dizziness, fatigue and eventually, confusion, coma and death.
Carbon monoxide poisoning isn't an all or nothing proposition. Some folks can be affected by lower levels of carbon monoxide exposure than others, so symptoms will often come on gradually and affect one person at a time -- much like an infection would move through the family.
There's some evidence that long-term exposure to carbon monoxide may result in some sort of physical damage, but exactly what is unknown. Indeed, long-term exposure victims may or may not exhibit any of the common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Safety comes from taking two precautions. One: make sure your motor or grill is properly vented and in good working order. Two: install a carbon monoxide detector. With a little common sense and a couple of precautions, your family can be safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.
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