I have been unable to keep the blog up to date due to unexpected health issues. But once again, in my usual style, wanted to post links and to inform others of something I was unaware of that almost destroyed my health. In spring 2016, I began experiencing extreme fatigue. Not the "I just spent the day moving all my furniture across town" fatigue, but something worse that seemed to eat at every cell in my body. I was a special education teacher and had just made a move to another city, so I assumed it was due to that. I got some rest over the summer, but the next school year it was even worse. By this time, teaching had become a 65 hour work week, assuming my job was to blame,
I made plans to work part time the next year, rest. and work on a cookbook. That summer, I was excited to start my new project, but found myself getting even worse. I remember going up a stair case in a parking garage that I had effortlessly taken a few days before. After the third step, it was all I could do to get up the next few. I became exercise intolerant, had bouts of malaise, every cell seemed so tired it hurt, it was even exhausting to breathe. My joints became stiff and painful, myalgia coated the outer layer of my arms and legs. I began to struggle with memory, vocabulary, access to my own personality, and unable to flex muscles. The muscle weakness had my face and neck muscles drooping and I looked as if I had aged 20 years in that year. My blood-work continued to come back normal. I received a diagnosis of Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD). The first line of meds for that is prednisone and plaquinil (A lupus/malaria drug). The meds did stop the joint pain and pleurisy.
Somehow, somewhere, I can across an article about how an improperly vented exhaust fan above a gas stove could reduce lung function in asthmatics. Since my lungs were compromised by the UCTD, we decided to check it out. Sure enough, our exhaust fan was a recirculating one, meaning it didn't vent to the outside, it recirculated the exhaust back into the kitchen. All gas stoves put off some degree of carbon monoxide, so it is vital that they properly vent to the outdoors. We also began to open the windows in the house more. I did get a degree of relief with the open windows, but then the bouts of malaise seemed to hit harder when the windows were closed (and there are no windows in our kitchen). We called the gas company and they did a carbon monoxide check in our home (it's free if you think you need one). The oven was putting out 60ppm carbon monoxide. NOW, here's the spot in the story where most people say "Didn't you have a CO detector?" followed by "We always have a CO detector!". Well...guess what!! The CO detector will only go off at levels that will kill you within a few hours (70ppm and up). They don't warn you of levels that will maim and kill you slowly. 0-9 ppm in considered the safe level for homes. Fire fighters wear gear at levels above 30ppm, and your basic CO detector isn't going to detect 60ppm. What's more, if you are damaged by chronic lower level doses, there's not much they can do, it hasn't been researched enough, except now researchers are realizing that it may be considerably overlooked.
My neurological symptoms slowly got better over the course of a year. I began to regain my energy levels, but I still get to keep the UCTD as my CO door prize. However, with the trigger gone, I began to get noticeably better, I was full of hope. My rheumatologist decided it was time to lower my prednisone dose, to taper me down. I was only going from 4 mg to 2 mg, and CRASH. I spent 6 weeks in bed exhausted and writhing in pain. I wasn't flaring, but my body didn't want to part with the prednisone. So now I'm still hopeful, but the healing process is going to take longer than I expected, as often happens. If you have read this far, bless your heart. But I'd like to think there are some good morals to this story:
1- Sometimes you just don't see that train coming. It happens.
2- Hopefully you are more aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and your vigilance will extend beyond trusting a CO detector.
3- This is my excuse for links that don't work (that's my story and I'm sticking to it)
Without further ado, some links about Chronic Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning.
Chronic and occult carbon monoxide poisoning: we don’t know what we’re missing https://emj.bmj.com/content/19/5/386
Low-Level Carbon Monoxide Dangers | Family Health | US News https://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/articles/2008/02/25/low-level-carbon-monoxide-dangers
REPORT: Effects on health of prolonged exposure to low concentrations of carbon monoxide https://oem.bmj.com/content/oemed/59/10/708.full.pdf
Domestic gas appliances and lungdisease https://thorax.bmj.com/content/thoraxjnl/52/suppl_3/58.full.pdf
Do Gas Appliances Impact Asthma? — The Asthma Education Clinic
A Rare Cause of Chronic Headache that May Be Misdiagnosed as Migraine: Chronic Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - ScienceDirect https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2452247316300619
Occult carbon monoxide poisoning: A cause of winter headache https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0735675787903202
Carbon Monoxide Pollution and Neurodevelopment: A Public Health Concernhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4568061/
Non-Diseases or CO Poisoning? https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/10/28/non-diseases-or-co-poisoning
Recognition of chronic carbon monoxide poisoning. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10605352