Cleveland, OH – The Plain Dealer, Melissa Hebert – Carbon monoxide is a stealth killer. You can’t see, hear, taste or smell it. And by the time you’re feeling it, you’re in trouble. According to the American Lung Association, about 300 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning and thousands more are hospitalized. This year, the deaths of 47-year-old Loretta McReynolds and her 9-year-old granddaughter Sierra Leggett in Bedford Heights put carbon monoxide poisoning back in the news. Tennis star Vitas Gerulaitas was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in 1994 from a faulty propane heater. Any fuel-burning appliance in the home is a potential culprit. Fireplaces, wood stoves, gas stoves, water heaters, space heaters and generators are common causes.

Facts about carbon monoxide poisoning

Symptoms are flulike: headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness, but no fever. Another clue is that the symptoms clear up outdoors.

People with respiratory conditions and children are most vulnerable.

Carbon monoxide kills by preventing the release of oxygen to tissue.

If you suspect you’re being poisoned by carbon monoxide, either go outside or to an open door or window. Call the fire department immediately and report your symptoms. Seek medical attention.

Oxygen is the only treatment, and severe cases may require time in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

Tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Make sure appliances are installed properly.

Have the heating system, chimney, flues and vents inspected and serviced each year.

Never use gas appliances like ovens, cooktops or dryers to heat the home.

Never burn charcoal or use portable fuel-burning camping equipment indoors or in a garage, car or tent.

Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even if the garage door is open. If you want to warm your car up in the winter, back it out of the garage first.

Never run gasoline-powered engines indoors. If using one is unavoidable, make sure the space is adequately ventilated, and place the engine unit to exhaust outside.

The best protection is a carbon monoxide detector More and more areas are requiring them in homes and rental housing. Lakewood requires them in rentals. Parma and Brooklyn require them in new homes. Willowick requires them in all houses prior to sale and all rental units with furnaces in living areas. Carbon monoxide detectors cost as little as $15. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that detectors be installed in the hallway outside each sleeping area. There should be no obstructions from furniture or draperies around the detector.