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Avoiding Potential Dangers of Carbon Monoxide in Winter

Winter time in Wisconsin tends to see a bit of a rise in issues involving carbon monoxide. Fond du Lac County Health Officer Kim Mueller tells us that is often due to residents just trying to keep warm. 

She says carbon monoxide is “formed by burning off of fuels, such as gasoline, kerosene, natural gas, oil, coal, or wood. During the winter months, many times we do burn that stuff in home to warm or heat up our house. And carbon monoxide comes off of those substances and then it can get us really sick.”

Mueller also emphasizes the importance of having working carbon monoxide detectors and properly ventilating your home. The colorless, odorless gas can cause flu-like symptoms – and worse.

Mueller points out that “those symptoms – headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness – can quickly turn into cognitive impairment, nauseousness, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and again that’s where death can occur. This is such a preventable problem that can be relieved by something very simple in installing a carbon monoxide detector.”

She recommends that “if you’re unsure if you’ve been exposed, you can call your primary care provider and talk with them to see what steps you need to take. But I think the biggest thing here and the reason we did the press release is that this is a really perfect time for us to understand first what carbon monoxide is – and second, how you’re preventing that from happening in your house.”

Mueller also reminds residents to not run cars in confined spaces, because doing so could quickly fill the area with carbon monoxide. 

She says if “you’re going to run your car to heat up the car before you get into it in the morning – you want to make sure you open up that garage door, but you also want to pay attention to where the exhaust from that car is going. If it’s going directly outside, great – or if you could take your car and park it outside and then start the car up or keep it running outside so that the exhaust isn’t building up in the garage, that’s very important.”

It’s also recommended to have a qualified technician run annual evaluations to check your home for any potential issues – and to regularly replace the batteries in carbon monoxide detectors.