Carbon Monoxide poisoning: what to look for, how it's treated

By  | 

TOLEDO, Ohio (13abc Action News) - Accidental carbon monoxide poisonings and deaths peak on cold winter days, according to the CDC. Many of those killed in recent years were sadly some of our own neighbors.

If you survive the odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas, you'll end up here, at a hyperbaric chamber.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so get your furnace inspected, and a new carbon monoxide detector, experts tell 13abc.

"After 50% of households in the U.S. don't have one. What we really want people to know is to go out and get a CO detector in these winter months," Dan Ball said. He's an external affairs specialist for Columbia Gas.

"It's the winter, so you have to be wary," Dr. J. Abbas said. Abbas is a vascular surgeon at the Jobst Vascular Center. He's also an expert in their hyperbaric chamber.

Columbia Gas checks for leaks once you sign up for service. That's why Columbia's Brad Smaw recommends a carbon monoxide detector on each floor. Brad has a warning for pet owners: dander will cut the life of these detectors in half!

"Carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfate, as well as propane, methane gasoline," Smaw said of what his handheld tool searches for.

Leaky hot water heater valves or one of the only ways to tell of high CO levels during an inspection.

"The only way (to tell) that there's a cracked heat exchanger, is if the flame characteristics will start showing yellow," Smaw said.

"Your furnace will be running more, so your risk for CO goes up," Ball said.

Turns out, many problems are discovered early only when the alarm goes off... for a dying battery.

"It's in the basement, so out of sight, out of mind," Smaw said.

Many show up at the hospital having no idea what's wrong.

"Dizziness up to loss of consciousness and death possibly," Dr. Abbas said.

That's where vascular surgeon Dr. J. Abbas comes in.

"We would dive somebody about two hours, they go in after eight hours, or twelve hours. We bring them and dive them again. And usually it takes about two to three treatments," Dr. Abbas said.

The hyperbaric chamber simulates a deep dive under the ocean. That separates bad molecules from the hemoglobin in your blood.

While the Toledo Fire Department gives out smoke alarms, they do not provide free carbon monoxide detectors. You can buy those alarms at any large home store. They usually range from $30-60.