With power out, experts warn of carbon monoxide risk

With much of the state without power, hospitals are warning people to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Many of the ways people try to keep warm without electricity–furnaces, stoves and fireplaces–produce carbon monoxide.

The Connecticut Poison Control Center has received 50 calls asking about carbon monoxide in the past two days, and Hartford Hospital has seen a spike in poison control cases.

Carbon monoxide has no smell or taste. Symptoms of exposure can include flu-like symptoms such as headache, nausea and vomiting, and unclear thinking, shortness of breath, weakness, loss of muscle control, and dizziness. Severe symptoms include convulsions and loss of consciousness, which can lead to death.

Experts at the Connecticut Poison Control Center at the UConn Health Center and Hartford Hospital offer these tips:

Don’t operate gas-powered equipment or charcoal or gas grills indoors or in any enclosed structure, including garages. Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can build up quickly even if doors and windows are open.

Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are installed and working properly. Amy Hanoian-Fontana, community education specialist with the Connecticut Poison Control Center, recommends people use carbon monoxide detectors with a battery back-up so it can function if power goes out.

If your carbon monoxide detector goes off, or if you experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, go outside immediately and call the poison control center (1-800-222-1222) or 911.

Be sure all vents are cleared and not blocked by snow. Don’t use wood-burning stoves, pellet stoves, gas-powered washers or dryers, or fireplaces if the exhaust vent or flue is blocked with snow.

Keep generators 20 feet away from the house and away from windows, doors and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to get indoors.

Do not siphon gasoline or induce vomiting in a person who has siphoned. Instead, call the poison control center or 911.

The poison control center is available any time day or night at 1-800-222-1222 to take calls from health care professionals and the public. People can call to report poisonings and get immediate treatment advice from specialists.