Carbon monoxide deaths rise in winter months; how to protect yourself

Tips to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Carbon monoxide poisoning is common this time of year. Fire officials say your risk is the highest during the winter months.

How do you know when this silent killer will strike?

Carbon monoxide acts fast. Depending what the factors are, you can find yourself in trouble within minutes or it can happen over an extended period of time.

The bottom line is -- if you suspect you’ve been poisoned, get fresh air and call 911 right away.

“We all forget," Jordan Yuodis, with Beuchel Fire and EMS, said. "It’s the colorless, odorless killer.”

Carbon monoxide is produced any time a fossil fuel is burned, and will leave you feeling sick.

Those exposed to the gas will develop a dull headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, confusion, trouble breathing, blurred vision and eventually -- loss of consciousness. This can lead to serious tissue damage, or even death.

“Whenever we get called to any CO call or any type of gas leak, we start this up,” Yuodis said while calibrating his CO meter.

WAVE 3 News set up a quick test to see how long it could take to reach a dangerous level of carbon monoxide in a garage. The space used is a lot larger than your typical residential garage, and the car used is a newer model truck, which emits less carbon monoxide than most older models.

Still, after just two minutes there was 60 parts per million (ppm) of CO in the garage. Between 200 and 400 ppm is when you start to feel the symptoms.

Anything over 1,000 ppm means loss of consciousness and life, within minutes.

Around 20 to 30 minutes after the truck was started, there was 88 ppm of CO in the garage. That is not dangerous, unless you are exposed for an hour or two. But still with the size of the garage, Yuodis said he was shocked it got that high, that quickly.

It also doesn’t matter if the garage door is open, CO can still build up.

Garages aren’t the only places that CO poisoning can occur. You also need to double check gas stoves, furnaces, water heaters and gas fireplaces.

Also, NEVER put a generator in your home or in your garage. Yuodis recommends keeping it far away from your home, in the backyard.

Most importantly, make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector in a central location of your home.

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