Washburn County has one of the highest incidence rates of CO poisoning in the state, according to Wisconsin Department of Health Services statistics. During the winter months, we tend to see a rise in Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisonings. We want to remind everyone to be aware of CO poisoning, what may put you at risk, and what steps you can take to protect yourself.

What is CO Poisoning?

CO Poisoning occurs when a person inhales Carbon Monoxide, a poisonous gas that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. The CO enters the bloodstream and blocks oxygen from being absorbed into the body. Symptoms of CO Poisoning include headache, fatigue, dizziness, impaired coordination, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and confusion. Severe CO Poisoning can lead to death in minutes.

How does CO Poisoning happen?

Carbon Monoxide is produced by burning fuels such as gas, kerosene, propane, and wood. Gas and wood stoves, generators, cars, tractors, snowmobiles, etc. all produce CO. If the area where fuel is being burned is not well ventilated, a buildup of CO will lead to CO Poisoning in both people and animals.

To protect yourself and your family from Carbon Monoxide, follow these safety tips:

  • Make sure you have working CO detectors. All homes in Wisconsin are required to have detectors on every level of the home, including the basement.
  • If you are working in a garage or shed on vehicles, make sure that the area is properly vented if the engine is going to be on – it is also a good idea to have a CO detector in there to let you know if CO starts to build up.
  • Make sure that any exhaust vents in your house, ice fishing shack, or other enclosed spaces are cleared of snow and debris.
  • Never run a generator in an enclosed space or right next to windows or doors.

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. Do not go back inside until you are told the air is clear of CO.

Visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website for more information about carbon monoxide poisoning or contact the Washburn County Health Department at 715-635-4400


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