The Monroe County Health Department said the onset of colder weather is a good time to take action to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

“As colder weather arrives, we start seeing more carbon monoxide poisonings,” said Sharon Nelson, Monroe County health officer. “Now is the time for Monroe County residents to make sure their heating sources and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order.”

Carbon monoxide poisoning sends about 500 people per year to the emergency room in Wisconsin, according to data from the Wisconsin Environmental Public Health tracking program. Nelson said trips to the emergency room for carbon monoxide poisoning are preventable when people are prepared.

To protect yourself and your family from carbon monoxide, Nelson offered the following safety tips:

  • Make sure to have working carbon monoxide detectors. All homes and duplexes in Wisconsin are required to have detectors on every level, including the basement but not the attic or storage areas. Detectors can be purchased at most hardware stores for $20-50. Nelson said the onset of Daylight Saving Time is a good time annually to replace the batteries in the detector and push the “test” button to be sure it’s working properly. It's recommended that detectors be replaced every five years.
  • Have furnaces and wood-burning stoves inspected annually. Hire a professional to make sure it is functionally sound and vents properly outside the home.
  • Never run a gasoline or propane heater or a grill (gas or charcoal) inside a home or in an unventilated garage. Any heating system that burns fuel produces carbon monoxide. Use a battery-powered detector where there are fuel-burning devices but no electric outlets, such as in tents, cabins, RVs and boats with enclosed cabins.
  • Generators should be run at a safe distance (at least 20 feet) from the home. Never run a generator in the home or garage or right next to windows or doors.
  • Never run a car in an enclosed space. If a vehicle is running, open a door to the outside.

At high levels, carbon monoxide can cause death within minutes. Symptoms of overexposure to carbon monoxide include headache, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea and confusion. Anyone who suspects experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning or hears a detector sound an alarm is urged to head outside immediately for fresh air and call 911.

Visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website for more information about carbon monoxide poisoning. To learn more about the Wisconsin carbon monoxide detector requirements, visit the Department of Safety and Professional Services’ website.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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