During the 2017-2018 heating season, the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers received about 250 calls related to carbon monoxide poisoning.

There's an increased risk of carbon monoxide exposure during the cold weather months, said Dr. Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center. She said this is the time of year when people fire up their heating systems for the first time in a while — and people often don't realize there's an exhaust blockage.

Carbon monoxide is called the "silent killer" because it's a gas that's odorless, colorless and tasteless. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to those of a cold or flu: fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting and fogginess.

Calello said the one sure-fire way to know if there's carbon monoxide in your house is to have a carbon monoxide detector. There should be one on every level of your home and near every sleeping space. Most detectors are battery operated. Others are plug-ins but if you are using a battery-operated one, make sure the batteries are new and working.

Another way to keep from being exposed to carbon monoxide is to make sure you don't leave a car idling in a garage. Remote-start cars have become a hazard in recent years as people forget that they've left their cars running.

If you have a chimney, have it inspected periodically to make sure there are no blockages. Fumes can seep into the walls.

Calello said to also be careful with gas-powered generators. They should not be operated inside or near a home.

If you suspect a carbon monoxide exposure, Calello says to get out of the house before making a call for help.

You can also call the New Jersey Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. They are open 24/7 to take your calls and inquiries.

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