HSHS St. John’s offers carbon monoxide warning, safety tips

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – HSHS St. John’s Hospital is warning people about the dangers of carbon monoxide and how to prevent the poisonous gas from accumulating in their homes.

Carbon monoxide is nicknamed “the silent killer” because it is an odorless and colorless gas. According to the CDC, 400 people in the United States die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning not linked to fires, with a further 4,000 hospitalized.

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuel is burned in cars, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, gas ranges, furnaces and fireplaces. Deadly levels of the gas can be produced in just minutes.

Brian Churchill, St. John’s EMS and emergency management facilitator, said that as the weather becomes colder, people turning on their home heating systems need to use caution when they do so.

“Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning,” says Churchill. “It’s important to know the symptoms so you can recognize them because you can’t easily identify CO like you can with smoke from a fire or the smell of mercaptan, which is added to natural gas so it gives off the smell of rotten eggs.” 

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include a headache, dizziness, an upset stomach and vomiting, confusion, weakness and loss of consciousness. Prolonged exposure to the gas will result in death.

People can adhere to the following safety precautions to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Have a qualified technician annually check a home heating system, water heater and other gas or coal-burning appliances every year
  • Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in homes
  • Never use a power generator inside a home, basement or garage or less than 20 feet from a window, door or vent
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors
  • Have chimneys cleaned annually by a professional and be sure the damper is open before lighting a fire
  • Never use a gas oven to heat a home
  • Never leave a car running while in a garage or other enclosed space

People who experience these symptoms are advised to call 911 immediately or get to an emergency room as soon as possible. St. John’s emergency department at 800 E. Carpenter Street in Springfield is open 24/7 to provide care.

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