Power outages are a reality of living in a region with intense winter storms.

But they can pose risks, including hypothermia and, according to the University of Washington medicine program, carbon monoxide poisoning.

When homes that use electric heaters or wood-pellet stoves with electric-driven hoppers lose power during an outage, some people go to extreme measures to stay warm, including bringing generators into their rooms to power space heaters.

But the Washington state college advises against bringing small gas engines, propane stoves and charcoal grills into a home if the power goes out.

Such appliances can emit carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can build up in a home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 4,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized each year due to carbon monoxide poisoning not related to fires. More than 400 die.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion — effects that may be mistaken for the flu.

Breathing in the gas may make someone pass out and, the CDC website says, sleeping or drunk people can die of carbon monoxide poisoning before showing noticeable symptoms.

Carbon monoxide can be produced from a leaky gas refrigerator or heating system, as well. So the CDC recommends installing battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors in places where they will wake people up if they go off.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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