If starting up your home's heating system brings on asthma attacks or other illnesses for someone in your family, you may want to get your heating system checked to see if it produces nitrogen dioxide. Here are the answers to some questions you may have.
What is nitrogen dioxide and how does it get inside your home?
Nitrogen dioxide is a red-brown gas that is produced when fuel is burned, such as propane, diesel, and wood. It can get inside your home when combustion appliances are not vented properly or when there are defects in the installation of the appliances.
Why does nitrogen oxide cause asthma attacks & health problems?
In low levels, nitrogen oxide is irritating to the eyes, nose, and throat. It can also irritate the respiratory tract, which is why it can trigger an asthma attack and cause problems for those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
In high levels, the gas can cause choking, nausea, abdominal pain, chest pain, headache, and shortness of breath. Someone experiencing nitrogen dioxide toxicity may develop rapid breathing and rapid heart rate, and have a fever. Their lips and extremities (fingers and toes) may turn blue.
Does someone with nitrogen dioxide toxicity need to go to the ER?
Someone who is experiencing illness from exposure to nitrogen dioxide should seek medical care as soon as possible. In severe cases, the person should go to the emergency room for immediate treatment.
Blood work will be needed to show the amount of the dangerous gas that may be present in their system. Other tests will be necessary to rule out other medical conditions the person may have, such as heart problems or lung function issues.
Treatment, of course, depends largely on the number and types of bodily systems that were affected by the nitrogen dioxide poisoning, but may include oxygen treatment and medications. Severe cases may involve intubation and/or mechanical ventilation.
Note that the most important thing is to get the person out of the environment where nitrogen oxide is present.
How can you eliminate the nitrogen oxide from your home?
You'll need to determine what is causing the nitrogen dioxide in your home in order to eliminate it. Hire a heating repair service to inspect your heating systems to make sure they are properly installed and that they vent to the outdoors.
Be sure to have all combustion appliances, such as gas-operated water heaters, stoves, and washing machines, checked also. If you have a fireplace and use it as a heat source, whether primary or secondary, hire a chimney sweep to inspect the fireplace, flue, and chimney.
If all of these systems and appliances pass inspection, another way nitrogen dioxide can get into your home is through your garage if you run your car while it's parked in it. If this could be the case, do not idle your car inside the garage. Pull the car outside and let it idle in the driveway.
What can you do to prevent nitrogen dioxide in the future?
Maintain your heating system and combustion appliances to reduce the risks of nitrogen dioxide from being in your home again in the future. Always ensure that vents are clear and free of debris so the gas can properly escape.
Install nitrogen dioxide detectors in your home. The sensitivity of these devices can be adjusted to sound an alarm at the smallest detectable amount, which is crucial if you or a family member has been diagnosed with asthma. Speak with your heating repair service or read more to learn more information about these detectors and where you should place them in your home based on where your heating system and combustible appliances are located.