Carbon monoxide poisoning in an RV is a very real danger. Learn the symptoms and ways to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning while using your RV.
Much too often, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning claims the life of RVers who went to bed thinking all was well…but never wake up.
Carbon monoxide is the RVer's biggest danger.
A tragic incident in Alabama tells the all too common story on how it happens.
At a campground near the Talladega Speedway. Craig Franklin Morgan, 46, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Morgan and his wife, Jami Allison Morgan, 38, were discovered unresponsive by friends who went into their RV at the South Campground outside the track.
Police said the carbon monoxide apparently leaked from the exhaust system of the family’s RV.
When the Morgans didn’t come out Saturday morning, friends went looking for them.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning is common
According to the CDC, every year, at least 430 people die in the U.S. from accidental Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
Approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
In fact, Carbon monoxide is the number one cause of poisoning deaths each year.
Carbon Monoxide is the Silent Killer
Carbon Monoxide is an invisible, odorless, and deadly gas, produced by the partial combustion of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels.
Carbon Monoxide is found in fumes produced by furnaces, kerosene heaters, vehicles “warmed up” in garages, stoves, lanterns, and gas ranges, portable generators, or by burning charcoal and wood.
Carbon Monoxide from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces, like an RV.
Typically, RV furnaces and generators cause the most problems for campers.
Poorly maintained equipment is often cited by first responders called out to investigate cases of RVers suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon Monoxide Monitors in RVs can and do fail
Almost all of today’s RVs come with carbon monoxide monitors.
But they can, and do malfunction.
Thus, as a matter of routine, you should test the carbon monoxide detector every time you use the RV If they have batteries, replace them at least once a year, twice if the unit is exposed to extreme cold. A good tip is to change the batteries when you change clocks for daylight savings time.
The sad thing is that many deaths occur when the victim is asleep. If their detection monitor is not working, or if they don’t have one, they just stop breathing.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
There are symptoms that are noticeable when awake. Collectively, they are most often described as similar to the flu, but without a fever.
They also may include.
• Muscular twitching
• Intense headache
• Throbbing in the temples
• Weakness and sleepiness
• Inability to think coherently
Here’s some more advice specific to RV’s, as suggested by the website Carbon Monoxide Kills
- Inspect your RV's chassis and generator exhaust system regularly, at least before each outing and after bottoming out or any other incident that could cause damage.
- Inspect the RV for openings in the floor or sidewalls. If you locate a hole, seal it with a silicone adhesive or have it repaired before using your generator again.
- Inspect windows, door seals, and weather strips to ensure that they are sealing properly.
- Yellow flames in propane-burning appliances such as coach heaters, stoves, ovens, and water heaters usually indicate a lack of oxygen. Determine the cause of this condition and correct it immediately.
- If applicable, have your built-in vacuum cleaner checked to make sure it does not exhaust under the underside of your RV. Have the system changed if it does.
- Do not operate your generator if the exhaust system is damaged in any way or if an unusual noise is present.
- Park your RV so that the exhaust may easily dissipate away from the vehicle. Do not park next to high grass or weeds, snowbanks, buildings, or other obstructions that might prevent exhaust gases from dissipating as they should.
- Keep in mind that shifting winds may cause exhaust to blow away from the coach one moment and under the coach the next.
- When stopping for long periods of time, be aware of other vehicles around you, such as tractor-trailers at rest stops, that may have their engines and refrigerators running.
- Do not sleep with the generator operating.
- Leave a roof vent open anytime the generator is running, even during the winter.
- If you do not feel well, do not be fooled into thinking that it is because you have been driving too long, you ate too much, or you are suffering from motion sickness. Shut off the generator and step outside for some fresh air just to be sure.
Tips on how to treat someone with carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms
- Get the Person to Fresh Air. Move the person away from the carbon monoxide area immediately. Check to make sure they are not injured before moving.
- Call 911
- If the person is unresponsive, not breathing, or not breathing regularly, begin CPR until emergency responders can take over or they start breathing again
- AMT responders will treat with oxygen
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