Carbon monoxide can be a winter threat |

Carbon monoxide can be a winter threat

Matt Terrell
Vail CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” As you turn up your heaters to fend off the winter cold, don’t forget about the dangers of carbon monoxide, say Eagle County health officials.

Every year, carbon monoxide sends 15,000 people to the emergency room and kills about 500 people in the United States, with January being the deadliest month of the year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here in Eagle County, four people have died in the past 10 years from carbon monoxide poisoning.

“They were either warming up their car in the garage without ventilation or heating themselves with a little camp stove in the garage without any ventilation,” said Jill Hunsaker, public health manager for Eagle County.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and toxic gas that is produced by burning fuel.

It can leak from faulty furnaces, heaters, wood stoves, gas stoves, and can be trapped in a home by a blocked chimney or flue. Burning charcoal inside a home, or running a car in a garage, can also produce carbon monoxide.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning look like the flu, and many people with carbon monoxide poisoning are misdiagnosed with the flu, said Tom Wagenlander, fire marshal for the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District.

Symptoms include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness and confusion.

Because carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, an exposed person may not be aware they are being poisoned until it is too late. Unborn babies, infants and people with anemia or heart disease are at a higher risk.

One of the best things you can do is buy a carbon monoxide detector, said Ray Merry, the county’s environmental health director.

Most cost under $100 and can be bought at hardware stores.

It’s also a good idea to have home heating systems, including chimneys and flues, inspected every year to make sure they are leak free and working properly, Wagenlander said.

If your detector sounds, get out of the house, get fresh air immediately and call 911. If you’re experiencing any symptoms, seek medical attention, Wagenlander said.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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