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Home Care Winter Tips 6: Dealing with Fire and CO Poisoning

By Peter DiMaria

Now that the temperature dropped considerably and snowflakes are falling, we feel tempted to pump up the heat and put on a fire in the fireplace. As the winter comes, with its storms and power outages, a generator can be necessary. These “routine” things we do during the winter bring in some deadly danger into our homes: fire risk and carbon monoxide poisoning. That's even more challenging considering elder care and safety.

Fire and Carbon Monoxide can be fatal in the winter.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas the can be lethal.  According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), it is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it.

CO poisoning is responsible for up to 40,000 emergency department (ED) visits and 5000 to 6000 deaths per year, making it one of the leading causes of poisoning death in the United States. It can be particularly dangerous to the elderly, as they have more difficulty moving around or getting out of the house, in case they start feeling the symptoms of CO build up.


Your loved ones’ house should have at least one up-to-date fire extinguisher. They should be aware of where the extinguisher is and know how to use it.  To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, ensure their safety by checking the batteries on the carbon monoxide detector and buying an updated one if you need to. The house should have at least one detector. Many are recommended, depending on the side of the house, as it is never too much to be sure. At least one detector should be positioned next to the bedroom.

 In some cases, elderly people have problems hearing and turn out their hearing aid during the night. That could make it impossible to listen to the alarm.

In that case, consider renting emergency alert systems with smoke detectors, offered by Home Helpers/Direct Link. These will send an alert to a monitoring station, in case of smoke or carbon dioxide in high concentrations in the house. The monitoring center then will call a family member, a neighbor and/or 911, to send help.


Talk about your loved ones about carbon monoxide and its dangers. Explain to them that if they suddenly feel headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion they should immediately move out of the house, to a location where they can breathe fresh air. Then, they should contact the fire department, to check in on the house. This simple gesture could save their lives.


If you believe that your loved ones won’t be able to deal with situations like this, you should consider bringing help in. Check Home Helpers Care Services to see how we can help.

Home Care Winter Tips:

1: Why Should You Take the Flu Vaccine?

2: Eight Signs of Hypothermia

3: Fall Risk

4: Check the Car

5: Wintertime Depression