COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital cautions that the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can resemble the flu. Because of the increased number of flu cases nationally, there is concern that those who have been exposed to carbon monoxide, an invisible, odorless and non-irritating gas, may mistake their ailments and symptoms for the flu.
Mild signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning that can appear to be the flu includes vomiting, dizziness, headache and confusion. More serious symptoms such as loss of consciousness are common. Loss of life or permanent disability can also occur. If there is suspicion of carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the site of exposure immediately and call the Central Ohio Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Potential sources of carbon monoxide exposure include gasoline-powered equipment such as generators, snow blowers and water pumps, gas ranges, kerosene heaters and cooking devices such as charcoal grills and camping stoves. Other sources in the home may include water heaters, furnaces, wood stoves and fire places.
Small fuel-powered engines are a significant source of carbon monoxide. Items powered by these engines should never be used inside a home. If an emergency generator or fuel-powered water pump is needed, it should be placed outside and far enough away from a house to allow exhaust to dissipate. Snow blowers should never be left running unattended or allowed to run while the operator is standing in or near a garage.
Heating a home with a gas range or kerosene/propane/butane space heater should not be attempted. Carbon monoxide production from these appliances varies greatly depending on the general maintenance of the device and the fuel used. These heaters can be dangerous when used in an emergent setting without proper maintenance.
Normal cooking with a gas range is unlikely to be dangerous, however attempting to cook using a charcoal grill or camping stove inside the home will produce large amounts of carbon monoxide.
Without a carbon monoxide detector, it may be impossible to tell whether carbon monoxide is present. Every home should have one or more working carbon monoxide detectors. The best carbon monoxide detectors for home use are those with battery backup for times when normal electric power is interrupted and digital peak concentration readout. They are readily available and can be purchased at hardware stores.