Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Andrew’s Note:  Today we present another lesson from our periodic Military Pedagogy series.  This discussion, from TC 21-3, the Soldier’s Handbook for Individual Operations and Survival in Cold Weather Areas [Approved For Public Release; Distribution is Unlimited] is on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.  As our homes and offices become better insulated and sealed we increase the chances of serious injury or death resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning.  This lesson was written for soldiers living and working in tents and vehicles but applies to permanent shelters as well.  Learn the symptoms, learn the treatment and for heavens sake, learn the prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning 

Carbon Monoxide DangerWhenever a stove, fire, gasoline heater, or internal combustion engine is used indoors, there is danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Fresh air in living and working quarters is vital.  Carbon monoxide is a deadly, odorless gas.

Andrew’s Note:  Additional sources of carbon monoxide poisoning include:  motors (cars, generators, etc.) running in garages attached to living quarters, fireplaces, furnaces, other types of portable heaters, gas stoves/ranges, gas water heaters,  gas refrigerators, wood stoves, barbecue grills, clogged/leaking vent pipes or chimneys, etc.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention

The following are suggestions to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Use stoves and lanterns in well-ventilated areas and tents.
  • Ensure that stoves and lanterns are functioning properly.
  • Do not let personnel warm themselves by engine exhaust.
  • Always have windows cracked in [stationary, running] vehicles with a heater [or engine is]in use.
  • Use a tent guard [also known as ‘fire guard’…individuals stay awake in shifts to keep the others safe] or shut the stove off when sleeping.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

Common symptoms are as follows:

  • Headache, dizziness, confusion, yawning, weariness, nausea, and ringing in the ears.
  • Bright red color on lips and skin.
  • Victim may become drowsy and collapse suddenly.
  • If personnel are found unconscious in an enclosed shelter, carbon monoxide poisoning should be suspected.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Treatment

Adhere to the following for proper treatment:

  • Move the victim to open air.
  • Keep the victim still and warm.
  • If the victim is not breathing, administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  • Administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation, if necessary.
  • Immediately [seek medical care and] evacuate the victim to the nearest medical treatment facility.

Andrew’s Note:  When I was first married I couldn’t believe how concerned my wife was with the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning… in fact, I thought she was a little nutty about it.  When I couldn’t allay her fears any other way I finally relented and began to buy standalone carbon monoxide detector and combination fire/smoke/carbon monoxide detectors .  Over the years I’ve probably purchased a dozen of these devices, installed them in every home we’ve lived in and even in the RVs that we’ve owned.  I replace older detectors every 3-5 years and periodically have our home and workplace inspected for safety (when we service our furnaces).  It took a while but I’m definitely a convert to my wife’s level of concern for this potentially life ending threat that we all invite to share our homes.  

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