Most Iowa home owners have switched on their furnace by now and hopefully they’ve had it checked out by a professional. Ken Sharp, with the Iowa Department of Public Health, says an annual inspection will lessen the likelihood of carbon monoxide poisoning.

"It’s always a good idea to make sure that you don’t have any problems with any of the combustion appliances, whether it’s the furnace, a gas water heater or a gas oven," Sharp said. Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of poisoning deaths in the U.S., with more than 500 unintentional and 1,700 suicide deaths each year. Sharp says most people don’t know they’re at-risk for C-O poisoning unless they’re alerted by an in-home detector.

"Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that you don’t know is present until you start to see some of the symptoms that you might expect from carbon monoxide exposure," Sharp said. "Our advice to everyone is to make sure they have a carbon monoxide detector in their home." The symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure are similar to the flu.

Sharp says if everyone in the household is experiencing flu-like symptoms that might indicate a carbon monoxide leak is present in the home. If that’s the case, Sharp says everyone should get out of the home, open the windows and call the local gas company to have the home inspected.