The home heating season is here and with it, potential health risks. The CDC reports more than 400 people die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning each year and thousands more are sent to hospitals.
Carbon monoxide is often called the silent killer because it is colorless, odorless and tasteless. So, having a CO detector in your home is key. Paying attention to it is critical, as one Wausau woman learned.
“Me and the kids could have died. It's pretty scary," said Darcey Wescott of Wausau.
Wescott considers herself lucky to be alive. Two years ago, the carbon monoxide alarm in her home went off.
"I couldn't see it or smell it," she told Newsline 9.
So, she ignored it for months, until the next heating season started up and so did the alarm.
"I finally called a heating company. When the gentleman came in he said you need to get out. I was blown away. He said you could be dead. I had no idea," Wescott said.
It turned out an exhaust vent from her furnace had rusted away, allowing carbon monoxide to escape into her home.
“I had not idea it was deadly readings," said Wescott.
She had a new furnace installed and now has it inspected annually. At a cost of about $100, heating specialists can make sure your furnace and venting systems are working safely.
"There's a lot they can see if there is something allowing it back in your home people are in danger," said Neil Kuckkahn of France Sales and Services.
He says you should check all flame-fueled appliances regularly.
As for CO detectors, most run off electricity and Kuckkahn recommends you have a battery-powered back up in case the electricity goes out and replace the entire unit every five years.
Maybe most important, if the alarm goes off, don't make the same mistake Wescott did.
"Take action, it's going off for a reason. Take action," said Wescott.
Wescott and her children are fine, but she says she now realizes she did suffer some headaches and other flu like symptoms which the CDC reports are common symptoms of CO poisoning.
By sharing her message, she hopes to help others.
Any gas, oil or coal burning appliance is a potential source of carbon monoxide. The CDC recommends annual maintenance by a trained professional.