It’s January, and the country is in the thick of influenza season.

40-110-000-webThe flu virus sweeping the nation caught our attention here at the Chimney Safety Institute of America, where we work to prevent the potential hazards related to another type of flue.

Your flu-like symptoms may not be the result of that virus but the results of one of the most serious threats posed by improperly functioning chimneys – carbon monoxide intrusion.

In a fact sheet produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that breaks down the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning, flu-like symptoms are listed as the key indicators of CO exposure.

These similar symptoms present a scary challenge, especially as the country is suffering through its worst flu season in 10 years. With so much attention on the flu, we want to be sure symptoms aren’t misdiagnosed and the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t being overlooked.

While we want to stress that while your flu symptoms are very likely the result of that virus, here are some questions to ask yourself about your  head and body aches, nausea and tiredness:

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.

The flu may be everywhere this season, but don’t discount the possibility that CO is the cause of your ailments. If it goes undiagnosed, extended exposure to the gas can be deadly.

To help prevent carbon monoxide intrusion at your home, contact a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep for an inspection of your home heating systems and vents.