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The Hazards of Heat

Filed Under: Sexual Health at 9:12 am | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
FireplaceWhen Mother Nature offers you nothing more than bitter winds, icy precipitation and frigid temperatures, you’re willing to do anything to keep warm. You’ll wear six shirts, three pairs of socks and a hat to bed. You’ll walk around with steaming cups of liquid just to feel the heat seep into your hands and then body. You’ll simultaneously use every heating appliance available – fireplaces, space heaters, woodstoves. You’ll be warm to the point of sweaty. And you’ll be happy, until your head starts spinning, your stomach starts turning and you pass out cold, from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Every year at least 500 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning; fifteen thousand more are treated for it in emergency rooms.  Although it can and does occur at any time, it is most common during the winter, when heating appliances run at full-force, in tightly sealed areas. Any malfunctions that would cause a leak are magnified or worsened and rooms quickly fill with the odorless, tasteless and colorless gas.  Individuals are hit with nausea, dizziness and headaches, symptoms that can easily worsen leaving the victim unconscious or dead.

If you believe that you are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning you must first find fresh air and then, see a doctor. With oxygen therapy, you should recover within a few days. However, long-term complications could emerge. Therefore, take the steps now to ensure that your life remains free of the deadly gas:

• Inspect all fuel-burning appliances, such as gas heaters, stoves, water heaters, space heaters, fireplaces and woodstoves, to ensure they are working properly.
• Check your chimneys, flues and vents. If blocked, the carbon monoxide will seep back into your home.
• Wait for fires to die completely before closing the damper.
• Don’t unnecessarily run fuel-burning appliances. Continual exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, fatigue, nausea, heart palpitations and breathing problems.
• If sitting in an idling car, make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow or a similar clog.

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