A silent killer -- What to know about carbon monoxide poisoning

In the cold winter months, some people may turn to alternative heating sources to warm their homes.

However, these sources of warmth come with risks.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is called the silent killer because it is a gas that you can't taste, smell, or see.

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"Up to 20,000 Americans have been hospitalized each year for carbon monoxide poisoning," said Dr. Asha Shajahan, with Beaumont Health. 

Shajahan said there are more than 430 carbon monoxide-related deaths a year.

"Any time you burn either wood or charcoal, gas, propane, it does release carbon monoxide into the air," Shajahan said. "That could start dispelling oxygen in your body, and when you don’t have enough oxygen coming to your cells you start having the symptoms of nausea, vomiting."

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms also include headaches and chest pain.

"A lot of those symptoms are very similar to COVID-19," Shajahan said. "It also mimics the symptoms of flu."

Because carbon monoxide is nearly impossible to detect on its own and the symptoms are like other illnesses, having a carbon monoxide detector is crucial.

"When it goes off it is the only warning that you really have because it's a colorless, odorless gas. It’s a silent killer," Shajahan said.