RENO, Nev. (KRNV & MyNews4.com) -- As temperatures get cooler, we start turning on our furnaces for heat. But with that comes the risk of a carbon monoxide leak and dangerous, possibly even deadly, results.
Last week I had a carbon monoxide leak in my apartment and ended up in the emergency room. Thankfully my CO alarm went off and I was able to get out.
The leak was caused by soot buildup in my furnace; something that could happen to anyone. So I went to the experts to find out how you can prevent this from happening in your home.
After just about 10 minutes of being exposed to carbon monoxide, I started to feel sick.
"What you'll start feeling is kind of a sensation of nausea, a little headache, sometimes a little dizziness," said Dr. Scott Shepherd, a Renown emergency physician.
Shepherd said your symptoms depend on how high the CO levels in your blood are.
"As the levels start getting up higher and higher in your system, then you can actually get sleepy, you can get dizzy, you can get confused," he said.
How long it takes to go from carbon monoxide exposure to CO poisoning depends on the concentration in the room.
"If you walk in just pure carbon monoxide, boom. Hits you like that," Shepherd said. "Whereas if it's a slow leak, it could take hours, even days, of chronic exposure to get symptoms."
Truckee Meadows Fire Marshal Amy Ray said carbon monoxide can come from appliances like grills, ovens and furnaces.
"Have all of your fuel-fired appliances cleaned, and make sure that all the connections are right and your filters are changed," Ray said. "Also have a carbon monoxide detector within your home."
There are a variety of models to choose from and, for as little as 18 dollars, one of them could save your life.
"There's really no other way for us to detect it, or for a person to detect it, other than the detectors," Ray said.
If your alarm does go off, get out of the environment.
"Call 911 and request emergency assistance," Ray said. "They will come and they will test the levels and they will also assess you as a patient to make sure that you aren't in a dangerous zone for levels and you don't need to be treated at the hospital."
Dr. Shepherd said you'll naturally breathe out low levels over time, but higher levels need care.
"If it's a big enough exposure then we need to actually displace it with oxygen," he said. "You're always better safe than sorry."
There are currently laws in 25 states that require carbon monoxide detectors in some or all homes. Ray said in Washoe County there is an ordinance as of September 1, but it only applies to new construction.