Cold Weather Increases Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon-Monoxide-Graphic CDCWinter is almost upon us. As we adjust to the cooling temperatures and savor the last days of fall, the Lincoln County Health Department wants to remind everyone of the risk of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is the most common cause of fatal poisoning. Carbon monoxide is especially dangerous because the symptoms are not often known. Carbon monoxide is often called the “invisible killer” because it is odorless and some of the symptoms are similar to the flu or other common illnesses. “Take the opportunity with daylight savings time to test your CO detectors and make sure they are in good working order,” says Meghan Williams, Environmental Health Specialist for the Lincoln County Health Department.

About 50% of all CO poisonings occur in the home. Other places include cars, cabins, and tents. No matter where you live, prevent exposure and know the symptoms.

Common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, and weakness. CO may also cause sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and disorientation. At very high levels, it causes loss of consciousness and death. If you think you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, or your detector sounds an alarm, head outside immediately for fresh air and call 911.

Following these tips can help you and your family avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors. CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. CO alarms are not substitutes for smoke alarms. Know the difference between the sound of smoke alarms and the sound of CO alarms. Both detectors can be purchased at most hardware stores.
  • Have your furnace or wood-burning stove inspected annually. Hire a professional to make sure it is working properly and vents outside of the home.
  • Never run a car in an enclosed space. If a vehicle is running, you must have a door open to the outside.
  • Generators should be run a safe distance from the home. Never run a generator in the home or garage, or right next to windows or doors.
  • Put a carbon monoxide detector in your camper, cabin or tent. With hunting season almost here hunters and other campers are encouraged to put a battery powered CO detector in their cabin, tent, RV or wherever they may be sleeping.

For more information about carbon monoxide, visit: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/air/co.htm.

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