Poisonings from carbon monoxide (CO) are especially common during cold weather spells, as families increase the use of gas, oil and coal burning appliances. Children process carbon monoxide differently than adults. When there is a CO leak, children are often the first affected by it and can suffer severe effects, including death.
Of the 20,000 people who visit emergency rooms each year for carbon monoxide poisonings, children have highest rates of CO-related incidents. According to Safe Kids USA, in 2009, poison control centers had 1,674 cases of CO exposure among children ages 5 and under, and 1,069 cases among children ages 6 to 12.
First and foremost, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is urging parents to equip their homes with functioning carbon monoxide detectors.
“Since carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas, you may not even be aware there is a problem in your home until it is too late,” says Sarah Haverstick, Safe Children Program manager at Children’s Hospital. “Parents should have at least one working CO detector on every level of their home.”
Haverstick says symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. She says parents should call the Tennessee Poison Center immediately (1-800-222-1222) if they think their child has been poisoned.
Children’s Hospital offers the following tips for parents:
· Install a CO alarm inside your home near all sleeping areas and test it monthly.
· Place the CO alarm at least 15 feet away from any fuel-burning appliances.
· Have gas, oil or coal-burning appliances, chimneys and fireplaces checked by a professional every year.
· Do not use the stove or oven to heat your home.
· Never use a grill, generator or camping stove inside your home, garage or basement.
· Do not leave your car or motorcycle engine running inside a garage, even with the garage door open.
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Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt