Health Watch -- Stay Safe and Warm

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

When you heat your house or cook your food, are you putting your family at risk?

Fuel-burning appliances used in and around the home are a major source of carbon monoxide poisoning. While these appliances are safe when installed and used properly, doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say most carbon monoxide poisoning cases come from poorly installed appliances, especially gas appliances.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless poisonous gas that results when fuel is burned incompletely. It can come from natural gas, coal, wood or oil used to fuel indoor furnaces, ranges, water heaters, room heaters or vehicles. Carbon monoxide poisoning causes fatigue, headache, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. Eventually it can cause unconsciousness and death.

Dr. Greene Shepherd, a UT Southwestern emergency physician and poison specialist, says you can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by making sure appliances are installed and used properly. Never use a gas-powered kitchen appliance like a stove to heat your home. Don't leave vehicles running inside the garage - especially a garage attached to your home. Don't use camping equipment or outdoor grills inside a house, tent or vehicle.

For added protection, install carbon monoxide detectors. If you notice symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air immediately and call the fire department.