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How to spot the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning

Updated on October 29, 2021

As people are turning their furnaces up, using their fireplace, or warming their vehicles, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning increases.

“Carbon monoxide will be an issue over the long winter months,” said Leigh Gruener, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) Public Education Officer.

Each year, the WFPS responds to hundreds of calls related to carbon monoxide. The highest months for this type of call are typically January and December.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas. It can come from a faulty appliance, clogged chimney, inadequate venting, or a buildup of engine exhaust.

Exposure to highly elevated levels of carbon monoxide can lead to unconsciousness and even death.

Similar to a smoke alarm, this alarm will sound if it detects carbon monoxide. One should be installed on every level of the home and outside of each sleeping area.

The symptoms of minor carbon monoxide poisoning can mimic those of the common flu.

“You could experience headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, mental confusion, weakness, vision or hearing impairment, and shortness of breath,” said Gruener.

Tips for preventing carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Have fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, wood-burning fireplaces and gas dryers cleaned and checked annually by a qualified service technician.
  • Make sure wood stoves are properly installed and vented.
  • Never idle vehicles in an attached garage even if the garage door is open.
  • Ensure all fresh air intake vents, exhaust vents, and chimneys are clear of snow, insulation, leaves, bird nests, lint, and debris.
  • Check forced air fans for proper ventilation.
  • Don't operate gasoline-powered engines, charcoal or propane barbecue/grills, or kerosene stoves in closed spaces or indoors.

Originally posted on February 5, 2019


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