This Month Holds the Highest Risk for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

December ranks as the riskiest month for carbon monoxide poisoning as temperatures drop, furnaces fire up and more people gather indoors for the holidays.

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With temperatures plunging, heating systems firing up, and more people gathering indoors for holidays, December ranks as the riskiest month for carbon monoxide poisoning.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate at least 50,000 people require emergency room care and at least 430 people accidentally die annually from invisible, odorless, stealthy carbon monoxide.

Here’s how to keep your home safe:

Be Proactive With Maintenance

Schedule an annual visit from a certified technician for your heating system, water heater and other appliances using gas, oil or coal.

Weigh the pros and cons if you think you need a new furnace or HVAC system.

Keep Vents and Flues Clean

Check vents, ducts and flues for your furnace, heater, fireplace and dryer. Make sure no debris from birds and critters, snow, fall leaves or lint is blocking ventilation.

Cleaning vents also extends the life and efficiency of appliances and your furnace.

Keep Gas Appliances Outdoors

Winter power outages cause challenges, but do not use a charcoal grill, lantern, camping stove or hibachi grill inside a home or camper. Also, keep gas-powered leaf blowers, snow blowers, generators and chain saws away from open windows where fumes can creep into enclosed spaces.

Warm Up Your Vehicle Safely

Keep garage doors open when warming up vehicles on cold days. Make sure exhaust pipes are free of snow and ice, which can cause carbon monoxide to build up inside vehicles. Instead of risking frostbite, consider these 12 ways to heat your garage safely and reliably in winter.

Know the Symptoms

Get medical help if you experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, which include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. People who have been drinking alcohol or are sleeping are the most vulnerable.

Use Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Choose and install carbon monoxide detectors that are battery-powered or have a battery backup. Check and change batteries every six months. Look for models ranging from easy plug-ins like this Night Hawk model or go high-tech and sync to mobile devices with Google’s Nest smoke and carbon monoxide alarm.

Lisa Meyers McClintick
Lisa Meyers McClintick is an award-winning Minnesota-based freelancer specializing in travel across the Upper Midwest and to national parks across the United States. She has been a longtime contributor to USA Today, Midwest Living magazine, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and also has written for Minnesota Monthly, and AAA publications. Her specialties include watching wildlife and birding, harvest travel, hands-on art and history, gardens and wildflowers, quirky small towns and scenic outdoors. She's a member of Society of American Travel Writers and Midwest Travel Journalists Association, which named her the 2019 Travel Writer of the Year. She's also an award-winning photographer and teaches workshops on memoir and creative writing, photography, travel, and creating sketchbooks and journals.