MDH warns against dangers of burnt-out alarms

November 13, 2018

It’s getting colder outside, and your heater is probably getting an early warmup. But as more people use indoor heating over the winter, the number of people who get carbon monoxide poisoning goes way up, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a harmful byproduct produced any time people burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces.

Sometimes it can build up, poisoning people and animals who inhale the fumes.

Emergency room visits and hospitalizations from carbon monoxide poisoning rise between November and February, the MDH said.

The number of visits more than doubles from September to November, and reaches a high in February, according to numbers from 2011-2015.

In 2015, there were 148 carbon monoxide-related emergency room visits, 15 hospitalizations and 12 deaths. But that number has been higher in years past.

At high enough levels, carbon monoxide can kill within minutes. Symptoms of overexposure include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, and confusion.

If an alarm sounds or you think you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, go outside immediately for fresh air and call 911.

Here are some tips to help keep families safe from carbon monoxide.

• Install and maintain CO alarms. Minnesota law requires CO alarms in all single and multi-family residences, and they must be within 10 feet of each bedroom (as carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely dangerous to people who can’t notice its warning signs).

• Replace alarms every five years, or according to manufacturer instructions.

• Hire a professional to inspect any furnaces or wood-burning stoves, and make sure they’re venting properly (to the outside). And never run a gasoline or propane heater or grill inside your home or garage.

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