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Colder, winter months can lead to uptick in carbon monoxide poisonings

Vancouver General has the province’s only publicly funded hyperbaric chamber to treat patients

Vancouver Coastal Health has issued a warning about carbon monoxide poisoning as the province heads into the coldest months of the season.

The B.C. Drug and Poison Information Centre receives about 350 carbon monoxide exposure referrals each year, and it’s during the colder, winter months when people spend more time indoors that hospitals see an increase in carbon monoxide poisonings. Between 20 and 40 of those cases are treated at Vancouver General Hospital, which has the province’s only publicly funded hyperbaric chamber in B.C., which provides 100 per cent oxygen in a high-pressure environment to increase the level of oxygen in a patient’s bloodstream.

Vancouver Coastal Health hospitals see an average of 31 emergency department visits during winter, compared to 19 visits per month during the warmer months of the year, according to the health authority.

Carbon monoxide is produced by burning gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal and other fossil fuels, and improperly ventilated appliances and engines using the fuels in a tightly sealed or enclosed space may allow the gas to build up to dangerous levels. The health authority added that prolonged exposure to the invisible, odourless gas can cause damage to a person’s internal organs, and in some cases could be fatal.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include headache, blurred vision, nausea, shortness of breath and/or confusion.

If you think you or someone you’re with may have carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately seek fresh air.

Vancouver Health Authority recommends installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home.

READ MORE: Loss of heat, carbon monoxide leak leads to closure of Lower Mainland animal shelter

Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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