Preventing the silent killer this winter

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Nebraska ranks as one of the states with the highest mortality rate from carbon monoxide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With colder temperatures arriving each day, many will be finding ways to keep warm. Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas produced when fuels burn incompletely. It's known as the silent killer because it has no color, taste or smell.

From November through February, it's the time where the highest percentage of people are exposed to carbon monoxide (CO).

The CDC said there are more than 400 deaths and approximately 15,000 er visits each year as a result of CO poisoning.

Because of this the Poison Center wants Nebraskans to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to prevent it from happening.

Symptoms of CO poisoning include sleepiness, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, vomiting, shortness of breath and convulsions. The first step in treating carbon monoxide poisoning is getting the victim to fresh air. Then seek medical attention immediately.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning resemble those associated with other health conditions that are common among the elderly, especially in the winter. The carbon monoxide death rate is highest among people greater than 65 years of age.

Here's some ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning from the Nebraska Regional Poison Center:
- Install carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home.
- Inspect all fuel-burning equipment yearly.
- Vent fuel-burning heaters to the outside.
- Do not use a gas range or an oven for heating a room.
- Never use a charcoal or gas grill inside.
- Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
- Generators should be run at a safe distance from the home – never next to a window, door or vent.
- Have vehicle muffler and tailpipes checked regularly.

Effective January 1, 2017, a Nebraska State Law requires carbon monoxide alarms in all residences that are sold, rented or remodeled. The Nebraska Regional Poison Center encourages all residences to have a carbon monoxide alarm.

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning or have any questions, contact the Nebraska Regional Poison Center toll-free at 1-800-222-1222. Nurse Specialists are available 24/7 to assist you.

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