Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, Wis.  – Carbon monoxide (CO) is often called “the silent killer” because it is an odorless and colorless gas. Every year more than 400 people in the United States die from CO poisoning not linked to fires and more than 4,000 are hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CO is produced when you burn fuel in vehicles, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, gas ranges, furnaces and fireplaces. CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it. In some cases, fatal levels of CO can be produced in minutes.

HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals’ Trauma Coordinator, Regi Geissler says as the weather becomes colder people are turning up their heating systems and need to use caution. 

“Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning,” says Geissler. “It’s important to know the symptoms so you can recognize them because you can’t easily identify CO like you can with smoke from a fire or the smell of mercaptan, which is added to natural gas so it gives off the smell of rotten eggs.”

Symptoms of CO poisoning include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach/vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Loss of consciousness

Tips to prevent CO poisoning include:

  • Annual checks of your heating system, water heater and other gas or coal-burning appliances by a qualified technician
  • Install battery operated CO detectors in your home
  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement or garage, or less than 20 feet from a window, door or vent
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors
  • Have chimneys cleaned annually by a professional, and be sure your damper is open before lighting a fire
  • Never use a gas oven to heat your home
  • Never let your car run idle while in the garage or other enclosed space

If you or a loved one experiences any of the above symptoms, call 911 or get to an emergency room as soon as possible. The HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital emergency room, 900 W. Clairemont Ave. in Eau Claire and the HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital emergency room, 2661 Co. Hwy I, in Chippewa Falls are open 24/7 to provide care.

For more information about CO poisoning and prevention tips, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. 

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About HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital
HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1889, it has been meeting patient needs in western Wisconsin with the latest medical innovations and technology, together with a Franciscan whole-person healing tradition.

About HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital
HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1885, it has served the people of the Chippewa Falls area with health care that is high tech and high touch. Known locally for the quality of the care it provides patients, the hospital has been recognized nationally for its outstanding patient satisfaction levels.

About Hospital Sisters Health System
Hospital Sisters Health System’s (HSHS) mission is to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high-quality Franciscan health care ministry. HSHS provides state-of-the-art health care to our patients and is dedicated to serving all people, especially the most vulnerable, at each of our physician practices and 15 local hospitals in two states – Illinois (Breese, Decatur, Effingham, Greenville, Highland, Litchfield, O’Fallon, Shelbyville and Springfield) and Wisconsin (Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Oconto Falls, Sheboygan and two in Green Bay). HSHS is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, and Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the founding institute. For more information about HSHS, visit www.hshs.org. For more information about Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, visit www.hospitalsisters.org.

Media Contact

Karen Kraus

Communications Department
HSHS Wisconsin
Office: (715) 717-4591
Cell: (715) 717-4747
Karen.Kraus@hshs.org

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