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icefishing hut 4

In cold temperatures there is one thing that all of us warm- blooded mammals have in common – our need for heat! But heating season brings hidden dangers as furnaces go on the fritz. If you have a heating crisis, it may be tempting to use outdoor propane heaters and camp stoves to generate heat indoors, but these appliances require ventilation levels impossible to achieve inside 4 solid walls. The result can be potentially deadly levels of carbon monoxide, a sneaky, odourless, colourless gas. Symptoms of toxicity mimic a case of the flu – headache, sick to your stomach, light-headedness, weakness, confusion and eventually loss of consciousness.

ice fishing hutThis month a friend of mine had a close call with CO gas in a most unlikely environment. An ice fishing hut he rented came with a camp-style propane stove. Not long into the day, he and his buddies started to feel sick to their stomachs. Thinking it was food poisoning or flu, they carried on fishing. When one of the men fainted, they knew they were in trouble and an ambulance was called. At the hospital they received treatment for advanced CO poisoning. Even 2 days after the incident, my friend’s white blood cell count was as high as a leukemia patient’s.  He can’t drive or walk without feeling dizzy and is too week to climb a flight of stairs. His doctor explained that if they had remained in that hut for another couple of hours, they would likely have slipped into a coma and well, the ending may have been different.

Many people aren’t aware that ALL appliances that use fuel (wood, propane, natural gas, heating oil, coal, kerosene, charcoal, gasoline) will produce CO. Proper combustion and ventilation is key so make sure to get regular maintenance and keep exhaust pipes clear of snow and ice. Always operate your gas generator outside, never in a garage, basement or carport and at least 20 feet away from any windows, doors or vents.codetector

Carbon monoxide detectors are now law for primary residences but don’t overlook the cottage (where many of us have older propane appliances and wood stoves). Get one for the trailer and fishing hut too!

So whether you are working or relaxing, take precautions against CO this winter and take a moment to get outside and fill your lungs with some wonderfully fresh, clean air.

Article published in the Cottage Country Connection – March 2015

Submitted by Shawna Foxton, Camp Kawartha