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Carbon monoxide poisonings rise when temperatures drop in Minnesota

As temperatures fall in Minnesota, the number of people who become seriously ill from carbon monoxide poisoning goes up, according to data from the Minnesota Department of Health. Illness and deaths from CO poisoning can be prevented when people take certain steps to prepare for heating season, say state health and public safety officials.

Emergency room visits and hospitalizations from carbon monoxide poisoning are highest between November and February, when the use of fuel-burning heat sources increases people's risk, according to information from the Minnesota Public Health Tracking Program at MDH. The number of emergency room visits for carbon monoxide poisoning more than doubles between September and November and reaches a high in February, according to data from 2011 through 2015.

To protect from carbon monoxide, follow these safety tips:

• Make sure to have working carbon monoxide alarms. In Minnesota, state law requires CO alarms in all single and multi-family Minnesota residences within 10 feet of each room used for sleeping. Replace alarms every five years or according to manufacturer's instructions.

• Have a furnace or wood-burning stove inspected annually. Hire a professional to make sure it is working properly and vents properly outside the home.

• Never run a gasoline or propane heater or a grill (gas or charcoal) inside the home or in a garage. Use battery-powered alarms around 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.

At high levels, carbon monoxide can cause death within minutes. Symptoms include headache, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea and confusion. Those who suspect they may be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, or if a detector sounds an alarm, head outside immediately for fresh air and call 911.