A carbon monoxide poisoning in Waukegan occurred on Saturday due to a faulty furnace, according to the Lake County News Sun. As the winter months approach, it is important to get your furnace checked to make sure it’s working properly. The incident affected two adults and one child, all who were saved from the building.

carbon monoxide poisoning in Waukegan

When you change your clocks, remember to change your CO alarm batteries. CO alarms are required in Illinois. Also, remember to get your furnace checked. (Flickr / Creative Commons / Judy van der Velden)

A 911 call reported an unconscious person around 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning. The fire department noticed the high levels of carbon monoxide as soon as they entered the home as their detectors started sounding. The firefighters evacuated the the conscious adult and proceeded to remove the unconscious one. One adult notified the firefighters that there was still a child inside.

The firefighters went back into the house to evacuate the child. It was a potentially life-saving move. If the levels were high enough to knock an adult unconscious, it would probably have a strong effect on child, who is smaller and thus affected quicker. All three, the two adults and one child, were all taken to the hospital to receive medical attention. As Fire Marshal Steve Lenzi told the Lake County News Sun, these were very serious injuries.

As mentioned, the source of the leak was faulty heating equipment, which is a problem that can crop up in colder weather that can go unnoticed in the warmer months. This is why it’s so important to get your furnace serviced by a professional once a year. The levels of carbon monoxide were 800 ppm in the home and 2,000 ppm in the utility room, where the furnace was located.

Lenzi told the paper that levels of 800 ppm could cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea in 45 minutes, and could cause collapse and death in two hours. If the levels were 1,600 ppm, headaches, nausea, and dizziness could appear in as little as 20 minutes, and collapse and death would be possible in one hour. As he said, these are serious injuries.

The firefighters turned off the gas to the home and power to the heater. They ventilated the home. The residence did not have carbon monoxide alarms, even though the law in Illinois requires every residence have one within fifteen feet of the sleeping areas.

When taken to the hospital, we hope that the patients were given hyperbaric oxygen treatment to prevent cognitive problems in the future. Some of the problems can result from brain damage and will appear in the weeks following the incident. In a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, cognitive sequelae were less frequent in the hyperbaric oxygen group at six weeks (25 percent) than in the normobaric oxygen group (35 percent).

The adjoining unit had a carbon monoxide alarm, but levels weren’t high enough to go off. Lenzi explained to the paper that the way the detectors work is by detecting high levels very quickly, and low levels over longer periods of time. This is why it’s so important to have a carbon monoxide alarm in each unit. If they waited for the alarm in the adjoining unit to go off, it may have been too late, sadly.

This incident could have easily been deadly. Especially for a sleeping person, carbon monoxide poisoning can be a very serious situation. While it is true that this family survived, this is not the end of the road for them. Most victims with this level of exposure suffer brain damage that can worsen in the days and weeks following the incident. Hopefully these patients received hyperbaric oxygen treatment and will receive medical follow-up.

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