It is odorless, colorless, tasteless. This silent killer, without a sound, can kill your sleeping child. It is called the “unseen enemy.” This chemical gas, carbon monoxide, is produced when fuel such as kerosene, charcoal, oil, wood, or natural gas is burned. Today, many families have gas appliances in their homes as well as recreational vehicles that burn fuel. Many families also have diesel or gas powered generators used in electrical emergencies. These too, if not monitored carefully, can be dangerous and produce a toxic level of carbon monoxide. With more and more parents becoming aware of this potential danger, extra measures of safety are being taken to make sure that children are protected from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Why is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous?
Oxygen is carried by red blood cells to various parts of the body. At a high level, carbon monoxide interferes in this process, bonding to the red blood cells and blocking oxygen from reaching the delicate tissues of the body. Red blood cells actually pick up carbon monoxide faster than oxygen. Being exposed to higher levels of carbon monoxide inhibits the body’s ability to get the oxygen it needs. Internal tissue damage can occur and, at toxic levels, even death. All of this can happen in a very short time. Sleeping children and adults seem to absorb carbon monoxide faster, and when you are asleep, symptoms are not readily apparent. Parents need to be aware of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to keep their child safe from its deadly effects.
Symptoms Mirror the Flu
Many of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mirror the flu, which adds confusion to the diagnosis. Parents should watch for nausea, dizziness, headache, and weakness. More toxic cases might include mental confusion, chest pain and loss of consciousness. If more than one person is experiencing these symptoms at the same time in the same environment, then it is most likely carbon monoxide poisoning. If only one person is experiencing the symptoms, take them outside for deep gulps of fresh air. If there is no improvement after stepping outside, it is most likely a flu or other cold bug. If they start to feel better, then carbon monoxide poisoning should be suspected. In any case, if your child is ill, it is always best to consult a medical professional. The best way to prevent your child from experiencing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is to take preventative measures to ensure their safety at home and during recreational activities.
Preventative Safety Measures Save Lives
Preventative safety measures save lives. Carbon monoxide poisoning usually occurs when carbon monoxide has been allowed to build up in an enclosed area. Always keep areas around fuel burning appliances, well ventilated. Fuel burning appliances should also have annual maintenance to ensure they are functioning properly and effectively. Some signs of a good appliances going bad include:
1. A violet flame.
2. Decrease in the hot water supply due to an inefficient water heater.
3. The furnace is not producing heat throughout the house and/or runs constantly.
4. The appliances or furnace is producing soot. Soot is noticed on vents and appliances.
5. There is a strange burning odor.
6. Wetness around windows and window tracks.
Problem appliances need immediate service from a qualified company technician. Fuel burning furnaces, wood burning stoves and fireplaces should also have annual checks.. Flues and chimneys should be cleaned on a regular basis by a qualified chimney sweep and any chips and cracks repaired. A chimney sweep company can provide more information on recommended maintenance and repair.
Parents should also be careful about burning fuel appliances or running the car in an enclosed garage. Many families have fuel burning generators in case of electrical emergencies. These portable generators should be run outside of the home and away from vents, open doors and windows that could allow carbon monoxide build-up in the home. Never run a generator in your garage. Cars should be started in the garage with the garage door open. Running a car in an enclosed, attached garage can cause carbon monoxide to enter the home through the connecting door. Parents should counsel older children to open the garage door before starting a car.
Recreational Activities Can be Killer Culprits
Recreational activities can be killer culprits in carbon monoxide poisoning. Grilling and boating can be especially dangerous if preventative safety measures are not in force. When firing up the grill be sure to do it outside in a well ventilated area. Grilling in cabins and/or tents is a fire hazard and could also cause a build up of carbon monoxide. Matches need to be controled as well so that little children don’t wind up playing with them.
The danger of carbon monoxide poising while boating comes largely from the boat’s gasoline powered engine. Houseboats with onboard electric powered generators also pose a threat. Generators that vent toward the rear of the boat present a significant danger to those swimming on the swim deck, or near the rear swim platform. Carbon monoxide tends to accumulate just above the water and near the rear platform. It can fill the air space beneath the stern deck and reach toxic levels in minutes. Carbon monoxide can also build up around any exhaust vents inside or outside the boat. Safety measures include:
1. Make sure that all fuel burning engines and appliances are correctly installed and regularly maintained.
2. Make all boaters aware of the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
3. Watch children closely for signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, especially while swimming near the rear swim deck or platform.
4. Try to direct swimming activities away from exhaust vents and the rear swim deck or platform.
5. Regularly check exhaust outlets to ensure that they are free and clear of any obstructions.
Other boaters can also cause a build up of carbon monoxide in your boating area. Always be sure to maintain at least 20 feet between fellow boaters. Idling the boat’s engine is also dangerous practice, giving carbon monoxide the opportunity to build up in both enclosed and open spaces. Operating a boat at a high bow angle due to a heavy cargo load can cause a back drafting effect, which in turn could also cause a toxic build-up of carbon monoxide.
Monitors Can Protect Your Family
In spite of all the best efforts of concerned parents, carbon monoxide poisonings still occur. The best protection against this unseen danger is an effective monitor that can tell you if carbon monoxide is in the air. A monitor will sample the air periodically and let out a loud alarm should levels of carbon monoxide within your home or boat become dangerous. They are battery operated and come with a manufacturer’s warranty. Some come with an A/C battery back up and self-testing functions which will alert you if something is wrong with the monitor itself. Some monitors are a combination of both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors giving families combination protection. Our suggested five best Carbon Monoxide monitors are:
1. First Alert with digital display and plug in feature
2. Kiddie Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector
3. Kiddie 900-0146 Digital Monitor
4. Kiddie Plug In Monitor
5. First Alert Plug In Monitor
You can read more about these monitors and their features by checking out the links below.
The best protection for any child is an observant parent. Should you suspect your child has carbon monoxide poisoning, get them some fresh air and call 911! Treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning involves oxygen therapy, or breathing oxygen for a sustained amount of time through a tight fitting mask. This therapy helps re-oxygenate the tissues of the body and lowers the carbon monoxide within the body back to a safe level.
Knowledge is power and knowing what to do to prevent and protect your child from carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely important. Install a Carbon Monoxide Monitor and take appropriate safety measures at home and during recreational activities to keep your family protected from this deadly enemy.
Suggested links on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
More Information on the top five carbon monoxide monitors .
Information from the Environmental Protection Agency on carbon monoxide poisoning.
Informative boating brochure with diagrams to explain how swimmers and boating positions can cause carbon monoxide danger. Tips as well on how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning while boating.
One of the better guides to help prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning