Illinois Poison Center warns about "silent killer" in homes

Cases of carbon monoxide poisoning increase in cold weather

Cold weather not only ushers in the need for heating in homes, but it also brings an increased risk of a “silent killer” —carbon monoxide. It is frequently called the “silent killer” because it cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. The Illinois Poison Center notes an increase in carbon monoxide poisoning in the winter, due to faulty heaters and furnaces, and urges residents to use a detector.

“While carbon monoxide poisoning can strike at any time of the year, the risk significantly increases as the weather cools and people begin using their furnace or use other gas-powered appliances for heating,” said Carol DesLauriers, IPC assistant vice president, in a news release. “Without a functioning carbon monoxide detector in a home, carbon monoxide can easily go undetected. With the sudden drop in temperatures this month, we want all Illinoisans to be aware of the risks, symptoms and treatment related to carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Gas-powered heating appliances are the most common cause of carbon monoxide injury in the winter time. Other sources include: oil, wood and gas furnaces and heaters, gas space heaters, charcoal grills, lanterns, gasoline-powered vehicles such as snow blowers, dryers and gas stoves and ovens.

Carbon monoxide poisoning usually occurs slowly over a period of several hours, however, at very high concentrations, carbon monoxide can kill in minutes. Carbon monoxide poisoning may result in flu-like symptoms including headaches, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Severe poisonings may cause convulsions, unconsciousness, brain damage and even death.

“The IPC strongly recommends installing carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of your home, as required by Illinois law, and to have furnaces and other heating equipment inspected annually by professionals,” added DesLauriers in the release.

For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning, call the IPC at 800-222-1222. Experts are available to provide information and treatment advice 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, including holidays. The call is free and confidential. For more information, visit the IPC's website:

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