Heater Safety

As temperatures drop and you turn on your heater to stay warm, be aware of potential risks.

One of the biggest concerns each fall and winter is carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and even death when inhaled. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. High levels can cause loss of consciousness. Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector, and if you have any of these symptoms, you should seek emergency care.

ACEP has the following tips to keep in mind before you turn on your heating sources.

  • Check all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Make certain they are working properly. If they are battery operated, change the batteries. There should be one of each detector on every floor of your house.
  • Have a professional inspect your gas furnace at least once a year for leaks or cracks.
  • If you use a fireplace, have a professional inspect and clean it every year to avoid fires. Also make sure any flammable materials are away from the open flame area. Never burn trash, cardboard boxes or items that may contain chemicals that can poison your home.
  • If you use a wood burning stove, have a professional inspect and clean the chimney each year. Make sure you have a safe perimeter around it, because it can radiate excessive heat. Place on a flame-resistant carpet, use a screen to prevent sparks, and hot coals from coming out of the stove. Use safe woods, such as oak, hickory and ash — avoid pine and cedar.
  • Never use a range (electric or gas) or oven as a heating source. It’s not only a dangerous fire hazard; it can release dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide.
  • If you use an electric space heater, keep a safe perimeter around it. Make sure it is away from water or anything flammable like curtains, paper, blankets, or furniture. Check for any faulty wiring that can cause electric shock or fire. Supervise children and pets around space heaters and turn them off before leaving the room or going to sleep.

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