Smell the Holidays

Today begins the countdown for holidays. That is, unless you haven’t already started counting down the days. Usually, it’s during this time, that I pull out my cookie sheets and apron and begin baking. It’s really the only time of year that I truly get into baking. I absolutely love making cookies. My favorite kind of cookie to make is spritz. Even though I might only make a couple dozen cookies, it seems like my house smells of the sweet aroma radiating from the oven for days.

While the weather outside is cold and windy, I can be assured that the heat from all of the baking inside my house keeps me warm. I love the smells of the holidays. Smells of baking, scented candles, and roasted pecans keep me inside for most of December. However, there may be one smell that you and your family may not be able to nor want to smell. I am talking about carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is produced whenever a fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can result.

Knowing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can help. At very moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, dizziness, confused, nauseated, or faint. If you do experience these symptoms, get fresh air immediately! Also, go to an emergency room and tell the physician you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. It can be diagnosed by a simple blood test done shortly after exposure.

Here are some tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Make sure your fuel-burning appliances e.g. gas furnaces, gas ranges and ovens, fireplaces, and wood stoves inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season.
  • Make sure flues and chimneys are connected and in good condition without being blocked.
  • Don’t idle the car in a garage, even if the garage door is open.
  • Don’t sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.

By taking steps ahead of time, you and your family can enjoy all the wonderful smells of the holiday baking season. And the tastes that come with it as well!

About the author: Emily Bruckmann is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a senior attending Indiana University who will graduate with a degree in public health this spring.