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Flu symptoms could signal carbon monoxide poisoning


Alliant Energy offers safety tips

While the symptoms of headache, nausea and fatigue are usually associated with the flu, they’re also a warning sign of another serious health problem – carbon monoxide poisoning. Alliant Energy encourages customers to recognize the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and to take safety precautions this heating season.

“Because symptoms mimic those of the flu, victims of carbon monoxide poisoning often don’t realize the cause of their illness,” said Larry Jensema, a service specialist for Alliant Energy. “Headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or disorientation, fatigue, muscle weakness and difficulty waking are all early indicators of possible carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Fall is the peak time for carbon monoxide problems, because homeowners are turning on their furnaces for the first time and their homes are sealed up tight. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, tasteless, odorless gas that occurs when fuel-burning appliances aren’t working properly. When people breathe in carbon monoxide, it enters the bloodstream and interferes with the absorption of oxygen by the blood cells.

“If exposure continues over a long period of time, carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to brain damage or even death. If the symptoms are not accompanied by fever, if everyone in the family is ill, or if the symptoms disappear when you leave the house, it could be carbon monoxide poisoning,” added Jensema. “If you suspect carbon monoxide is in your home, get everyone out of the house and call a service professional to inspect your appliances right away. If you or anyone living in your home is seriously ill, call 911.”

Jensema recommends that customers protect against carbon monoxide poisoning by using gas appliances correctly, keeping them well maintained and having natural gas furnaces inspected every year. Additionally, he reminds customers to refrain from heating their home with a gas oven or range, and to be careful when using an unvented space heater. Never use a charcoal grill indoors or a propane grill in an enclosed room.

“To keep your family safe this winter, it’s especially important to install quality carbon monoxide detectors in your home’s living and sleeping areas,” said Jensema. “Be sure to change the batteries in a carbon monoxide detector often, just as you do with smoke detectors. Whenever you change your clocks to Daylight Savings Time, change the batteries in both your smoke and CO detectors too.


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