BBQ with a side of carbon monoxide poisoning

Can you spot carbon monoxide poisoning at a BBQ? Here’s a fictitious example that’s not so far from being real.

Despite the rain on a summer day, the family’s gathered for a BBQ lunch with a creative set up – cooking on a portable grill inside the kitchen instead of the patio. The kids are giggling and running about when suddenly Aunt Sally crumbles to her knees by the beverage table.  As others rush to help her, they guess that she’s dehydrated. Maybe she has the flu. Or maybe she ate the macaroni salad left out too long. But it’s also possible there’s something in the air.

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can look like the flu or food poisoning. Headache, confusion, dizziness, and a feeling of weakness can actually be carbon monoxide poisoning, something we rarely think about.  Those with carbon monoxide poisoning might also experience nausea, vomiting, and chest pain.

Continued exposure to carbon monoxide, or CO, can result in fast breathing, a quickened heartbeat, or increased chest pain. Vision problems, loss of consciousness, and seizures can also occur at this point.

Prevent exposure by grilling outdoors in wide open areas. Never grill indoors. Because it's odorless and colourless, CO can build up without any indication until someone gets sick. If there is suspected exposure, leave the house and go outside into fresh air immediately. Call 911 for medical help and report potential CO exposure.

Carbon monoxide is not only prevalent during grilling season. Other sources of CO risk include gas-fired furnaces, boilers, stoves, dryers, hot water tanks, and fireplaces. Check these appliances every year. They should be in good working condition before use. Installing a Canadian certified carbon monoxide detector can also help prevent tragedies from happening.

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