Carbon monoxide poisoning: a real risk that can be avoided

Unfortunately, every year we hear how people living alone or entire families have suffered poisoning from carbon monoxide (CO) inhalation in their own home, with serious and even deadly results.

It is time to remember that some simple measures can prevent these fatal accidents from occurring because, as indicated by the 112 Emergency Service of Castilla y León (@112cyl), is between the months from october to march the period in which most of these episodes occur, since the widespread use of heaters.

A dangerous and undetectable substance

Generally we limit ourselves to associating carbon monoxide with the smoke emitted from industrial facilities or the exhaust pipes of motor vehicles (although emissions have been progressively reduced since 2001), but the Ministry of Ecological Transition (@mitecogob) remember that any fuel containing carbon (gas, coal, oil, propane, wood, biofuels …) is susceptible to generating toxic gas if you don’t have enough oxygen for proper combustion.

Carbon monoxide it is very dangerous because it is not detected. It does not have an odor that we can recognize, nor does it create any type of smoke that alerts us. Simply we inhale it while we breathe and the toxic gas is affecting, in a few minutes, the body. It reaches the lungs and from there it passes into the bloodstream, where it works by hindering the transport and arrival of oxygen required by our vital organs, the heart and the brain, among others.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

What are the symptoms of this poisoning

Gas is a poison for any living being, including animals and plants, but the damage and the effects it can cause differ from one individual to another. It depends on the exposure time, its degree of concentration (in a closed space it will act faster) and also on the resistance and the general state of health of each person. The experts they point out that they are the young children and older adults who are most at risk when exposed to toxic gas, especially if the latter have heart or lung disease.

Dizziness, drowsiness, headache, sudden fatigue, nausea, confusion … These are the usual symptoms that, if not acted upon quickly, can lead to loss of consciousness That would prevent asking for the necessary help.

Measures to avoid toxic gas performance

Every year there are many institutions that remind us that these serious accidents can be easily prevented, since it is proven that it is a bad combustion, in a place with poor ventilation, which triggers them.

With the arrival of low temperatures, a review of any heating system that you use: boilers and gas installations, fireplaces or braziers (always inadvisable), regardless of whether they work with firewood, wood or biomass, among other options. Nor should we forget the ovens, stoves and even the charcoal or wood stoves, common in the Rural environment.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

It must be verified that they are installed correctly and that the smoke and air outlet ducts are clean, with all safety grills free of any obstruction. In addition to these simple guidelines, you should keep in mind some basic safety recommendations which indicates, among other administrations, the Community of Madrid (@CommunityMadrid) when preventing poisoning by inhalation of gases:

  • Gas heaters must be always in a suitably ventilated place and you must verify that it burns properly. Only you have to look at the color of the flame when the appliance is switched on. The more blue In other words, the better because it means that the combustion is being carried out in full, without generating carbon monoxide (or doing it in minimal quantities that do not imply danger).
  • Never place this type of appliance, or burning stoves or braziers, in the bedroom if you are going to bed. If you are asleep, you cannot detect any abnormalities and the gas could be lethal.
  • Do not let a car engine running in a closed space.
  • Remember that do not cover the underside of gas ovens, so as not to impede proper air circulation, nor to use portable equipment, such as a stove or barbecue, in a closed and unventilated place.
  • If you think it is convenient, you can install a gas detector jump immediately in the presence of carbon monoxide or other toxic substance.

How to care for an intoxicated person

The gas acts fast, so speed is essential in any situation where you suspect that there may be carbon monoxide in the air. At the slightest suspicion, open doors and windows immediately to neutralize it and stay away from the fountain which may be generating it. Faced with symptoms of poisoning (dizziness, vomiting …) it is important to receive the necessary help and attention by calling 112.

If you are well and there is an intoxicated person inside the house, try to remove them and, in the case of absence of breath (only in that case), you will have to carry out the cardiorespiratory resuscitation maneuver while emergency services arrive.