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'Tis the Season for Carbon Monoxide

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holidays are the Peak of the Season for CO Poisoning

Milwaukee, Wis. -- This year, more than 20,000 people will visit the emergency room due to the No. 1 killer poison in the United States. Carbon monoxide is a odorless and colorless gas which will kill approximately 500 people over the course of the year.

Aurora Health Care and the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine are urging households to guard against CO poisoning this holiday season. The winter months see a drastic increase of CO poisoning cases. The key to not being a victim is being aware of common hazards and installing a CO detector.

"With the onset of cold weather people are turning on furnaces for the first time of the season," explains Dr. Jeffrey Niezgoda, Medical Director of the Centers of Comprehensive Wound Care and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center and President of the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine. "We want to remind people to have their furnaces and chimneys serviced and to replace the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If you do not have a carbon monoxide detector, install one on every level of your home. It may save your life."

Early symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, impaired judgment or confusion.

"With minor exposures many people will quickly recover after being removed from the poisonous environment," says Niezgoda. "However, some people will show delayed symptoms, so if you have been exposed to carbon monoxide, you should go to the emergency room."

"In cases of severe carbon monoxide poisoning, hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be beneficial," says Niezgoda. "Treating a patient with hyperbaric oxygen allows for rapid removal of carbon monoxide and can prevent cellular damage, especially in the brain and heart."

Prevention, and the use of a CO detector, are big keys in preventing CO poisoning, according to the American College of Hyperbaric Medicine. Be sure your furnace and other appliances, such as gas ovens, ranges and cook tops are inspected for ventilation. Do not cook with a propane grill inside your garage. Have gas fireplaces inspected each fall to ensure the pilot light burns safely. Your home heating system, chimney and flue must be cleared of nests, leaves and residue, and should be inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician, annually. Do not operate gasoline-powered engines in confined areas such as garages or basements. Do not leave your car, mower or other vehicle running in an attached garage, even with the door open. Do not block or seal shut exhaust flues or ducts for appliances such as water heaters, ranges and clothes dryers.

Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve the quality of care. Aurora provides care at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

For more information or to interview Dr. Jeffrey Niezgoda, please call Adam Beeson at (414) 649-3915. www.aurorahealthcare.org

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Adam V. Beeson
414-649-3915
adam.beeson@aurora.org

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