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Children’s Health Concerns Following Flooding Part 2

Currently we are looking at the various ways in which flood situations may be especially dangerous to children. In our last entry we examined the problems presented by mold. This time we turn our attention to the less well known problem of carbon monoxide within the home. How do floods create this problem? What can be done about it? Are your children at risk without you even knowing it?

Carbon monoxide becomes a flood related problem primarily when the power has been knocked out, and people begin using portable generators for heat and electricity. In many cases, these units are placed indoors for easy accessibility. Unfortunately, they produce carbon monoxide as a byproduct of their use, a gas which is harmful, and even deadly to humans if inhaled in large enough concentrations. Remember when you were told about the danger of leaving your car running in an enclosed garage? This is the same principle.

No, generators should be placed as far away from buildings as possible. They should never be placed on balconies or near doors, vents, windows, or any area where children are sleeping.  Remember that carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and fatal gas, and simply opening up your doors and windows will not provide adequate ventilation to remove the gas from your home.  About a thousand people a year die from carbon monoxide poisoning, and 64% of nonfatal carbon monoxide exposures happened in the home.

Again, children are especially susceptible to the problems caused by carbon monoxide, and it is again due to their underdeveloped and weak immune and respiratory systems.  If your children begin to feel sick or dizzy, or if they experience headache, chest pain, or confusion, move them to an area where there is a steady supply of fresh air and seek medical attention promptly. A child’s skin under the fingernails may turn red if they have been exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide, and unborn fetuses and infants are especially vulnerable to its effects.

It is highly recommended that homeowners install a carbon monoxide detector that is Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory Approved (NRTL). These are readily available at your local hardware store. Because carbon monoxide is lighter than air, these detectors should be placed close to the ceiling, and positioned close enough to the sleeping areas that they can be heard by sleeping family members. Much like a fire alarm, the batteries should be changed on these units every six months or so.

The best thing about carbon monoxide is that it is a problem that is easily avoided, simply by following a few basic ground rules.  Remember, no generators inside the home or near windows and vents; seek medical attention for any family member experiencing headache, chest pain, or confusion; and installing carbon monoxide monitors to keep a watchful electronic eye over your home.

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