The Silent Killer strikes most often during the winter months.
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning earned its named as the Silent Killer because it is a colorless, odorless, deadly gas.
CO alarms can detect it and, therefore, are recommended strongly.
People can detect CO only by the flu-like symptoms they suffer, and then it may be too late.
Last year, we reported the story of local family members who experienced symptoms, sought hospitalization and, thankfully, returned to the home in time to evacuate other family members rendered unconscious by carbon monoxide from a leaking water heater.
Their escape spared them from joining the 170 people, on average, who die from non-automotive CO poisoning each year in the United States.
CO is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane and natural gas, according to the Jefferson City Fire Department.
In addition to vehicle exhaust, the agency warns CO may be released by malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances, including furnaces, ranges, water heaters, portable generators and fireplaces.
The department encourages that all appliances be installed, maintained and operated according to manufacturer's instructions and local building codes.
In addition, the agency warns:
• Never operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool in or near an enclosed space such as a garage, house or other building.
• Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless specifically designed for use in an enclosed space.
• Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
• Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu, but without the fever. They include: headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness.
Continued exposure causes more severe symptoms, including: mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination and consciousness, and, ultimately, death.
If a CO alarm sounds or physical symptoms are experienced, people are advised to move outside into fresh air immediately, then contact emergency services.
Evidence of the presence of the Silent Killer must not be ignored.