New Jerseyans will spend a lot of time indoors with the heat cranked up this winter. But The New Jersey Poison Control Center wants folks to pay attention to any symptoms they may be feeling.

What feels like a cold, the flu or even COVID-19 could actually be carbon monoxide poisoning.

Bruce Ruck, managing director of The New Jersey Poison Information and Education System at Rutgers University New Jersey Medical School, said carbon monoxide is deadly because it is a colorless, odorless gas. Most people don't know they've been exposed until either their carbon monoxide detectors are going off, or until they have symptoms, Ruck said.

The top symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are nausea, vomiting, headaches, muscle aches and pain and fatigue

Ruck said people can protect themselves from carbon monoxide poisoning by putting detectors on every level of their homes and in every bedroom. Check the batteries often and make sure they're working. All carbon monoxide detectors, whether they're hard-wired or plug ins, should have a battery back-ups in them.

He warned people that carbon monoxide can leak from heating systems and major gas appliances in the home. Residents should check to make sure heating and water systems and dryer vents are clear and working properly. Chimney flues and fireplaces should be inspected for any blockages.

As New Jersey often gets hit with storms, whether they're snow or rain events, many residents may lose power and turn to generators to power up their homes. Ruck said be very careful with portable generators. They should be kept as far away from the home as possible.

"Carbon monoxide detectors are key and watching for nausea, headaches and tiredness. The problem is if these symptoms happen in the middle of the night when you're sleeping. If you don't have a carbon monoxide detector that's working, you may not wake up in the morning," said Ruck.

If you suspect someone has been exposed to carbon monoxide, Ruck said get out of the house immediately into fresh air. Call the local fire department and gas company immediately.

If you have trouble waking somebody up, if that person collapses, has a seizure or is unconscious, an ambulance must be called so that person can be transported to a hospital. Call the NJ Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 for immediate medical treatment advice.

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