During the 2017-2018 heating season in New Jersey, 162 people were evaluated in emergency rooms for issues related to carbon monoxide, the deadly gas that’s a “silent killer” because it can’t be smelled or tasted. Many of the 162 required hospitalization. The NJ Poison Control Center received 250 calls related to carbon monoxide during those cold months.
With the recent shift in temperature having prompted people to turn on their heating systems, New Jersey’s Poison Information & Education System has sent out a warning about carbon monoxide, noting that many homeowners and landlords turned on the heat earlier than expected without having had systems serviced beforehand.
“Prevention and early detection are crucial in preventing poisoning injury and death from carbon monoxide,” says Diane Calello, MD, executive and medical director of the NJ Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s Department of Emergency Medicine. “You want to catch a leak before it turns into a serious problem.”
So, it’s the time of year to check that battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors are working properly, are on every level of the home and near every sleeping area. The alert lists safety tips on reducing the risk of exposure to the gas and has information on what to do if you suspect exposure.
Exposure to carbon monoxide can produce headaches, sleepiness, fatigue, confusion and irritability at low levels. At higher levels, it can result in nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, impaired vision and coordination, and death. During cold and influenza season, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can easily be confused with symptoms of viral illnesses like the common cold and the flu.