The Flu or THE FLUE?

Flu vs FLUE

Feeling sick lately? Like many of you, we have been trying to keep this nasty flu bug at bay this winter. If you have been feeling sick there are some potential causes that you may not have considered. Did you know that problems with your chimney flue can cause similar symptoms as the flu virus?

The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) has written a helpful summary of the differences between the flu virus and carbon monoxide poisoning. You can read the full article HERE.

When thinking about how your family has been feeling lately, CSIA reminds us to consider:

Are your symptoms accompanied by a fever? The flu, and often colds, typically elevate your temperature. CO poisoning does not cause fevers.

Does leaving home ease your symptoms? If carbon monoxide is present in your home, you’ll feel sick while exposed to the gas there. If your symptoms lessen when you’re away from home, it could indicate that CO exposure is causing your sickness.

Are your pets are acting sick, too? The human flu virus doesn’t affect dogs and cats, but CO exposure will. If your cats and dogs also seem ill, it could indicate CO intrusion of your living space.

If you think you may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, get outside to fresh air immediately. You can contact your local fire department to check the CO levels in your home. Then call your family physician and let him/her know that you believe you may have CO poisoning.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission says,

The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include:

    • Headache
    • Fatigue
    • Shortness of breath
    • Nausea
    • Dizziness

High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death

Once you know you are OK, it is a good idea to contact a certified chimney professional to inspect your chimney flue.  Also, make sure you have at least one CO detector installed on the first floor of your home. Check the batteries and the average reading regularly (most detectors provide this function). Remember that CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, so you may not even be aware that you are being exposed.

Although the health effects of CO depend on the CO concentration and length of exposure, as well as each individual’s health condition, most people will not experience any symptoms from prolonged exposure to CO levels of approximately 1 to 70 ppm (parts per million).  As CO levels increase and remain above 70 ppm though, symptoms become more noticeable and can include headache, fatigue and nausea. At sustained CO concentrations above 150 to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness, and death are possible.

Visit the USCPSC website for more information on what to do if your CO alarm should sound while you are home.

If you haven’t had your annual chimney safety inspection yet, call your local, certified chimney technician today at 610-328-3084.

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