RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Poison Center is warning residents about the dangers posed this winter by ‘the silent killer’ — carbon monoxide.  

The Virginia Poison Center says they typically see a spike in carbon monoxide poisoning cases during the colder months. Carbon monoxide is sometimes referred to as the silent killer because many of the symptoms are easy to miss, according to the Poison Center.

Also known as CO, carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is made when gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuels are being burned. 

Winter is an especially dangerous time for carbon monoxide poisoning because many of the devices used to heat homes produce the gas, but windows and doors keep it trapped.  

8News spoke with Corri Miller-Hobbs, the Injury Prevention Education and Outreach Coordinator with VCU Health, to discuss who is more at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning and why.

“People of any age can really suffer but children can be more significantly impacted — and more quickly — because they’re smaller and their systems process the carbon monoxide differently than adults. But [the gas] is significant in causing harm for people of all ages and bodies,” Miller-Hobbs said.

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach and vomiting. Miller-Hobbs said these symptoms are often overlooked. 

“The earlier symptoms can be things that can be confused for other challenges you may have in life. Something that, say, stands out a little more permanently in the earlier stages is a faster heart rate — you feel like your heart might be racing a little bit,” she said.  

As for how Virginians can protect themselves from carbon monoxide poisoning, Miller Hobbs offers the following tip:

“Families are often struggling to heat the home and, at times, are trying to utilize their stove or the oven in order to warm the area, but it’s important to understand that can be a hazard also,” she said. “So, it’s important to understand not to utilize that stove and oven for heating.” 

National health experts estimate that 20,000 adults and kids are sent to the emergency room to be treated for a poisoning, and more than 400 die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year.    

For more information, contact The Virginia Poison Center’s 24/7 hotline at 800-222-1222.