Just over a week ago, while watching the University of Pittsburgh-University of South Florida football game, a Pennsylvania woman began to feel weak and woozy. She was sick to her stomach as her thoughts turned fuzzy. She realized she didn't feel well, but thought that maybe she had food poisoning. "I didn't think anything was really wrong," she said.
Doctors say she experienced the typical symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. During halftime, she brought Christmas decorations down from her attic and put them outside on her porch. If she hadn't stepped outside, doctors believe that she might have passed out in the house. A carbon monoxide detector eventually went off, so she called 9-1-1.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas, which makes it difficult to detect.
Hundreds of accidental CO poisoning deaths occur each year across the country. According to the Pennsylvania Health Department there were 31 accidental CO poisonings reported in Allegheny County last winter (from October to May). Twenty-four of the incidents, including three deaths, were due to malfunctioning heating systems or vehicles left running in enclosed spaces.
Think You Might Have Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Symptoms of CO poisoning mirror the flu - headaches, fatigue, chest pain, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or feeling faint; if anyone in the house, including pets, shows some of these signs then you may have been exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide. If you think you might be experiencing the effects of carbon monoxide, take action by GASPing:
- GET fresh air. Open all of your doors and windows and leave the house.
- ALERT the authorities. Notify the fire department and gas company so they can find the source of any suspected leaks.
- SEEK medical attention. Go to the emergency room or call 911 and tell them you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not ignore the symptoms - even if you think it may just be the flu or that you are being paranoid - get checked out. It's better to be safe than unconscious.
- PROTECT yourself further. Take steps to prevent future accidental CO poisoning by recognizing the dangers of idling cars in garages or sleeping in a room with unvented gas or kerosene space heaters.
Sources: She survives 'silent killer,' experts issue warnings