While Canadian winters can be pretty cruel and shake you from head to toe, it is, nevertheless, an intriguing season. The pleasure of watching the morning sun generously light the snow-capped mountains from the comfort of your warm and cosy house is unrivalled. However, this winter bliss may sometimes take a turn for the worst and can even cause death.
As winter approaches, the heating systems and fireplaces in your house secretly invite in a silent killer known as carbon monoxide.
Every year, numerous cases of accidental deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning are reported globally. Likewise, Canada is no exception to this harsh reality. According to Parachute Canada, Carbon Monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in Canada and North America. Global News further reveals that the former takes the lives of about fifty Canadians each year.
As the most trusted and top-rated HVAC contractors across Edmonton and its surrounding areas, we deem it our responsibility to educate our readers regarding this serious yet underestimated danger. Hence, we shall use this blog to enlighten you about carbon Monoxide poisoning, its risks, symptoms, and how to prevent it.
What Is Carbon Monoxide poisoning?
To understand this term, we first have to comprehend what Carbon Monoxide actually is. The name indeed reminds you of Carbon Dioxide. However, the former is more deadly than the latter. The difference between the two is that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) has two Oxygen molecules and one Carbon while Carbon Monoxide (CO) has one Oxygen and One Carbon.
Oxygen bonds with our blood which is then transported to the body for respiratory purposes to ensure the proper functioning of the body parts. CO2’s molecular structure prevents it from building up in the bloodstream which is why you can never have CO2 poisoning. However, CO can easily build up in your bloodstream and replace the Oxygen. The latter is what CO poisoning entails and is quite harmful to the body.
This type of poisoning causes almost the same damage as lack of oxygen in the body.
What Are Its Symptoms?
There is a reason why Carbon Monoxide is called a silent killer. The thing is, this deadly gas is completely colourless, odourless, and an individual does not show any unusual symptoms when CO poisoning occurs. The best way to detect such an issue is to remain alert in the winter to headaches, chest pains, nausea and dizziness when there is a heating system running or any fuel burning.
People often mistakenly believe that only organic fuel burning causes CO poisoning. However, even a modern malfunctioning HVAC system or furnace can produce gas. Hence, it is essential to frequently avail furnace maintenance and other services from a reliable HVAC contractor.
Other symptoms that might signal suspected Carbon Monoxide poisoning include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Unusual weakness and fatigue
- Unclear vision
- Loss of consciousness
- A feeling of perplexion
The worst part is that one can not detect Carbon Monoxide poisoning when asleep. Hence, the gas often silently kills the victims without anyone even realising it. In other cases, the gas may also cause severe irreversible brain damage.
How Can We Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Winter often makes people careless. Due to the harsh cold, we often disregard the importance of keeping our health in check and simply concentrate on keeping ourselves warm. However, this negligence may prove detrimental at times.
Let us look at how we can protect ourselves against this deadly gas:
1. Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Why not make use of technology when it is there?
If you can afford a smartphone or any sophisticated electronic device, then you are committing a fatal error by not installing a CO detector. The latter could save you from a mishap.
2. Inspect your HVAC System For Any Signs Of Malfunctioning
As mentioned earlier, a malfunctioning HVAC system or furnace may also produce CO. Hence, it is crucial that you regularly have your heating system inspected. Look out for any weird smells emitted by your HVAC system and have it fixed immediately.
3. Keep Your House Well-VentilatedKeeping your dwelling well-ventilated in the winter is important. If the house has adequate air circulation, the chances of CO poisoning are slim, even if there is a leak. The gas will eventually escape out into the atmosphere rather than invade your body.
4. Do Not Leave Any Heating Device Or System Unattended
Never leave a heater, stove, oven, or any other heating device on while asleep. As we said, it is usually harder to detect CO poisoning when a family is asleep. Numerous cases of deaths of a whole family while sleeping are reported every now and then.
5. Seek Immediate Help If There Is A Suspected Carbon Monoxide Leak
Canada Safety Council urges everyone to seek immediate medical help if there are apparent symptoms of CO poisoning. If it is winter and you have a heating device running and are experiencing dizziness, headaches, or nausea, call 911 or 112 for help.