As Minnesotans turn back their clocks this weekend, the Minnesota Department of Health is reminding people to take action to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
“As it gets colder, we start seeing more carbon monoxide poisonings,” said Dan Tranter, indoor air supervisor for MDH. “To prepare for winter weather, make sure your heat sources and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order now.”
Carbon monoxide poisoning sent about 372 people to the emergency room in Minnesota during 2017, according to data from the Minnesota Environmental Public Health Tracking Program.
To protect yourself and your family from carbon monoxide, MDH says to follow these safety tips:
- Make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors. Detectors can be purchased at most hardware and big box stores. The change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time is a good time each year to replace the batteries in your detector and push the “Test” button to be sure it’s working properly. Replace your detector every five years or according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Have your furnace or wood-burning stove 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 your home or in an unventilated garage. Any heating system that burns fuel produces carbon monoxide. Use a battery-powered detector where you have 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 you must idle a vehicle, back it out of the garage before idling.
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. If you suspect you may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning or your detector sounds an alarm, head outside immediately for fresh air and call 911.
More information about preventing carbon monoxide poisoning in your home and state requirements for carbon monoxide detectors can be found on the carbon monoxide page on the MDH website.