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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 10/20/00
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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UC Emergency Medicine Department Warns of Carbon Monoxide Dangers

Cincinnati--With furnaces and other heat producing devices being turned on for fall and winter weather in Cincinnati, the University of Cincinnati (UC) Department of Emergency Medicine and the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine physicians offer the following simple suggestions that could save you or your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.

While preparing for the coming cold season, be sure to check these common situations:

  • Since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, installing a carbon monoxide detector could save a life.


  • Check for chimney openings to be free and clear. Chimneys are frequently clogged or blocked by animal nests, debris, or creosote.



  • Properly operating space heaters should be vented to the outside. Those that burn gas should have a shut off valve that kicks in when oxygen is depleted to dangerous levels. Flames should be blue, not yellow. Trouble signs include soot or rust buildup on burner, excessive moisture on windows.



  • Gas or wood-burning fireplace should have ashes removed regularly and plenty of air should be available for combustion.



  • Gas/propane refrigerator, stove, hot water heater, and clothes dryer should have burners checked regularly for soot or carbon deposits at the flue or the firing unit and check the vent pipes for corrosion and blockage. Appliances that are not vented to the outside should have automatic shutoff valve for when oxygen is depleted. Never use a gas stove to heat a room or apartment.



  • Gas or fuel oil furnace should have blue flame, not yellow. Look for soot or dirt buildup at burners, flue and registers, and change or clean filters regularly. Wilting or dying house plants are a sign of trouble.



Laurie Gesell, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine, and Director of the Center for Hyperbaric Medicine at The University Hospital warns, "The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be mistaken for flu or a cold symptoms with headaches, dizziness, weakness, and nausea or vomiting being some of the most common. Other symptoms include difficulty breathing, chest tightness, sleepiness, confusion, and passing out. Anyone suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning should seek emergency medical care immediately."


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