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Geisinger becomes the first member of Risant Health

Fall is officially here, and winter isn’t far behind. As the end to daylight saving time approaches and it begins to get darker and colder, it’s a good time to make sure you and your family are prepared for lower temperatures.

Start your winter prep by turning your clocks back for daylight saving time on Sunday, Nov. 6 – and test your smoke detectors, too.

"Smoke inhalation is actually the most common cause of death in house fires," said Ronald S. Strony, M.D., director of Emergency Medicine at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre. "If there’s a fire in your house, every second counts."

Three out of five home fire deaths occur because a smoke alarm doesn’t work, or isn’t present at all, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Change the batteries in your smoke alarms and test them to make sure they work properly. If you don’t have a smoke detector on each floor of your home, now is the time to add one.

In addition to smoke detectors, you should have working carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

"It’s especially important to make sure carbon monoxide detectors are working because of the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning," said Dr. Strony. "Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, which means it can be difficult to tell if there’s a leak."

Carbon monoxide is a gas produced as a result of burning fuel — gas ovens, furnaces, space heaters, lanterns and wood-burning fireplaces all give off carbon monoxide.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are dizziness, headache, fatigue, confusion, nausea and trouble breathing. If it goes untreated, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage or death.

"The symptoms are similar to the flu; however, if you feel them only when you’re in your home, it may be carbon monoxide poisoning," said Dr. Strony. If you suspect you or a loved one has carbon monoxide poisoning, seek medical care immediately.

To prevent carbon monoxide leaks from starting in the first place, be sure your fireplace and furnace are also ready for the winter. Have them cleaned and inspected by a professional before using them this season.

Using a space heater or fireplace can help you stay warm this winter, but they come with their own fire hazards. If you’re going to use a kerosene space heater, make sure the room is well ventilated. Both gas and electric space heaters should be kept at least 3 feet from blankets, curtains and anything that could catch on fire.

And while sleeping with a space heater on or a fire burning might keep you warm throughout the night, they poses a serious fire risk.

Always turn off space heaters before going to bed, and make sure the fire in your fireplace has been completely extinguished.
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