RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With snow, ice, and freezing temperatures heading our way, doctors want to remind you about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. It is often referred to as a silent killer.

“Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that can’t be detected by smell or taste or color,” Dr. Richard Moon with Duke University Medical Center said. “It’s produced by all forms of combustion.”

Moon said there’s an increased risk of exposure during winter weather.

“Often what happens is, the power is out. It’s cold and people turn to other forms of heat such as the gas stove,” he said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50,000 people go to the emergency room in the U.S. each year due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and at least 430 people die from it.

“My best advice is (to) not run a generator inside the house or close to the house. Don’t turn on the gas top stove if the electricity is out and if you’re going to use gas logs in the fireplace, make sure that the flue is opened so that the poisonous gas is carried up the chimney and outside,” Moon said.

Outdoor cooking sources, like a charcoal grill, should also remain outdoors.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms come in a variety of forms. They include:

  • Headache
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • And vomiting

Higher levels of exposure can cause loss of consciousness or the inability to realize what’s going on.

Moon also said the best treatment for people with severe exposure is hyperbaric oxygen.

Patients go inside one’s chamber and breathe 100-percent oxygen at a higher pressure for up to two hours. This treatment, Moon said, reduces the risk of long-term complications. 

“I just like to say prevention is much better than cure, so avoid situations where carbon monoxide can be inside the house or car,” he said.