Holiday Alert: Arizona health officials urge caution as carbon monoxide poisoning calls rise

PHOENIX, ARIZONA: The poison control center at Banner Medical Center in Phoenix has reported an increase in cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, with nearly 50 calls received since October 1.

The Banner Poison and Drug Information Center urges the public to ensure carbon monoxide and fire alarms are in good working order and to maintain good hygiene while preparing holiday meals.

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Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, one of Arizona's leading hospitals (website)
Banner Health says its employees are receiving more calls for carbon monoxide poisoning (Website)

Authorities warn of carbon monoxide poisoning

As the end-of-year holidays approach and the expected influx of relatives and guests, the risk of accidents with potentially serious consequences increases.

Health officials stress the importance of keeping medications safe, including storing and disposing of them properly, especially around young children.

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According to AZ Family News, they also warn of the potential dangers of festive alcoholic drinks for young children.

KNUTFORD, UK - JULY 05: In this photo a woman smokes an electronic cigarette
Children are vulnerable to ingesting harmful substances from tobacco and vaping, which can lead to serious health problems (Getty Images)

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“It’s one of those things you can’t really see, smell or taste. This is why carbon monoxide detectors are so important. “That’s one of the things we want people to do is make sure they’re working at this time of year, that’s safe,” he added.

Addressing concerns about the risks of smoking and vaping is crucial because children are at risk of ingesting harmful substances that can lead to serious health problems.

The advisory also includes potential dangers associated with poisonous plants such as poinsettias and mistletoe, which are known to cause illness in children and pets.

Batteries found in phone devices pose a potential ingestion hazard for young children (Getty Images)

Batteries found in many toys, decorations and devices pose a potential ingestion hazard for young children.

Authorities advise parents and guardians to remain vigilant, ensuring that children avoid playing with or removing these easily ingestible button batteries. U.S. poison control centers document approximately 3,500 cases of battery ingestion per year.

What is the most common cause of carbon monoxide in a home?

According to the NHS, the main culprits of carbon monoxide buildup are poorly installed, poorly maintained or poorly ventilated appliances, such as cookers and water heaters.

Additionally, the risk extends to poorly ventilated fireplaces and other gas or wood appliances.

Avoid covering the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with aluminum foil, as this can impede air circulation and lead to carbon monoxide buildup.

BERLIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 12: An electric car and a plug-in hybrid car charge at a public charging site
Avoid driving a car or truck into a garage and be careful with remote start features to avoid unintended activation (Getty Images)

Never leave a car or truck running in a garage and use caution with remote start features to avoid accidental activation.

The indoor use of charcoal grills, oil lanterns or portable camp stoves is strictly discouraged.

The same goes for portable generators or gasoline engines; these should only be used outdoors, maintaining a distance of more than 20 feet from open doors or windows.

For safe use of the generator, refer to additional tips on proper handling.

Never use a stove or clothes dryer to heat your home.

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 16: Victor Zelaya attempts to start a fire on a barbecue grill during a power outage
Indoor use of charcoal grills, oil lanterns or portable camp stoves is strictly discouraged (Getty Images)

Before using a fireplace, make sure the flue is open.

After a winter storm, clear snow accumulations from the vents connected to your dryer, heating system, stove and fireplace.

Schedule a professional inspection of your heating system regularly to identify and resolve potential problems.

These precautions collectively contribute to a safer living environment, minimizing the risk of carbon monoxide exposure.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?

According to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning often mimic those of the flu and include headache, dizziness, weakness, stomach upset, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

Severe exposure to CO can lead to loss of consciousness or even death. In particular, people who are asleep or under the influence of alcohol can succumb to CO poisoning without showing symptoms.

How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home?

To prevent CO poisoning at home, take the following precautions:

Install a battery-operated or battery-backed CO detector, ideally with a digital display. Place it strategically, such as outside your bedroom, and replace the detector’s battery every two years during daylight saving time changes.

Have your heating system, water heater and any gas, oil or coal appliance professionally serviced every year by a qualified technician.

Avoid using portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.

If you detect an odor coming from your gas refrigerator, call an expert, as this may indicate a potential CO leak.

When purchasing gas equipment, choose items bearing the seal of a reputable national testing agency, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories.

Provide adequate ventilation for gas appliances, with horizontal vent pipes angled slightly upwards outward to prevent CO leaks.

Carbon monoxide detector connected to an electrical outlet (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)
A carbon monoxide detector can prevent poisoning deaths (Wikimedia Commons)

Schedule an annual chimney check or cleaning to prevent blockages that could lead to CO buildup.

Avoid repairing vent pipes with tape, gum, or other materials, as this can contribute to CO buildup.

Never use a gas stove or oven for heating, as this may result in CO buildup.

Avoid burning charcoal indoors, regardless of color, as it releases CO.

Avoid using a portable gas camp stove indoors to prevent CO buildup.

Never run a generator indoors, in the basement, in the garage or within 20 feet of windows, doors or vents.

Use a battery-powered or battery-backed CO detector when using a generator.

The Poison and Drug Information Center at Banner-University Medical Center in Phoenix offers free and confidential services for poison control and drug inquiries. Operating 24/7, individuals can contact the hotline at (800) 222-1222 from any location to connect with the nearest poison control center.

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