UTAH (ABC4) – As temperatures continue to drop throughout Utah and citizens begin breaking out their fuel-burning heating equipment, carbon monoxide poisoning becomes a serious concern among healthcare officials.

“When the furnaces turn on, the carbon monoxide detectors should also get a checkup,” said Marc Robins, MD, Intermountain Healthcare Medical Group hyperbaric medicine specialist at Intermountain Utah Valley Hospital.

Carbon monoxide has been confirmed to be the No. 1 cause of death by poisoning in the United States. The gas is nearly impossible to detect without an alarm as it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. 

Physicians at Intermountain Healthcare are taking steps to prioritize the safety of residents by reminding them to only use heaters that have been approved and to double-check that their carbon monoxide alarms are functioning adequately. 

Carbon monoxide is most commonly produced by fireplaces, gas stoves, water heaters, furnaces, space heaters, and portable generators but can also be a result of a defective furnace, automobile exhaust, small gas engines, and other kinds of machinery. 

Every year over 20,000 people nationwide are sent to the emergency room as a result of exposure to carbon monoxide. The CDC predicts that this year over 400 Americans will die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning not linked to fire. 

“Unfortunately, some of the symptoms that come with carbon monoxide poisoning mimic COVID and flu symptoms – headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, aches, and pains,” said Dr. Robins. “If you suspect you or someone in your family has been exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide you should leave immediately and seek help.”

The most common remedy for carbon monoxide poisoning is high-flow oxygen treatment, which reduces the risk of brain damage. 

Despite the availability of different treatment options, those affected are still in danger of developing permanent brain damage or a cardiac injury. 

Follow the steps below to prevent carbon monoxide exposure:

  • Schedule annual check-ups for your furnace and water heater with professionals
  • Make sure your home and/or business is armed with a carbon monoxide monitor and alarm
  • Annually check your chimney flues for any blockage 
  • Turn off your car when necessary, refrain from keeping your car running in enclosed spaces
  • Be wary of symptoms

For more information regarding carbon monoxide safety, click here