With people using portable generators in the wake of tropical storm Irene, the Connecticut Poison Control Center has been receiving calls about carbon monoxide poisoning. Portable generators produce carbon monoxide, and the poison control center, part of the UConn Health Center, has issued safety advice about the generators and food safety.

“CO cannot be seen, smelled, or heard,” said Amy Hanoian Fontana, community education specialist at the poison control center. “Working CO detectors are the only way to tell if carbon monoxide is in the home. They save lives. All homes should have them, generator or not.”

Other tips include:

Generators should only be used outdoors, more than 20 feet from any building, doors or windows

Never use a generator indoors, including in a basement or garage, even if the doors and windows are open

Headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion are the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

People who are sleeping or who have been consuming alcohol can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before having symptoms

Consult a health care professional right away if you think you might have carbon monoxide poisoning

Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector with a battery backup so it can function during a power outage

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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