Flu-like symptoms might have you hurrying to the doctor. However, if you are experiencing headaches, dizziness, an upset stomach, chest pain, and confusion, it might not be the flu.
It might be carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Kills Over 400 per Year in the US
Because carbon monoxide gas is colorless and odorless, it’s extremely hard to detect. Every year, carbon monoxide poisoning kills more than 400 Americans and sends more than 20,000 to the emergency room. Acute carbon monoxide poisoning can kill. Long-term exposure can result in neurological and cardiac problems, sometimes with only mild symptoms that can easily be ignored. Over one-third of all poisonings occur in December, January, and February.
Where Does CO Come From?
Carbon monoxide is found in the exhaust from cars, trucks, and other internal combustion engines. It is also often produced by your stove, fireplace, or furnace. Generally, carbon monoxide only builds up to dangerous levels indoors. Many incidents of poisoning are caused by using a gas camp stove or generator indoors during a power outage (generators should always be used outdoors and kept at least 20 feet away from windows and doors so the fumes cannot get inside).
Tips to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Protecting yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning involves making sure that anything that burns wood, gas, oil, or coal is serviced every year, including your furnace. Avoid using camp gear indoors, and get your chimney checked and cleaned every year (this is particularly an issue for cabins, as debris can end up in the chimney during the offseason).
Make Sure Your Home Has a Carbon Monoxide Detector
Finally, you should get a carbon monoxide detector. This will let you know when levels become high so that you can leave the building before acute poisoning becomes damaging or fatal. Detectors can be purchased from discount stores and home improvement stores. The detector should be placed close enough to the bedroom to wake you up if it goes off. If you have a large home, you may need to get multiple detectors. Change the batteries on your detector every six months and replace the detector itself every five years.