From a news release issued by Alliant Energy:

January 6, 2010 – While the symptoms of headache, nausea and fatigue are usually associated with the flu, they’re also a warning sign of another serious health problem — carbon monoxide poisoning. Alliant Energy encourages customers to recognize the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and to take safety precautions this heating season.

“Since symptoms mimic those of the flu, victims of carbon monoxide poisoning often don’t realize the cause of their illness,” said Larry Jensema, a service specialist for Alliant Energy. “Headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or disorientation, fatigue, muscle weakness and difficulty waking are all early indicators of possible carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Winter is the prime season for carbon monoxide problems because your home is sealed up tight and your furnace is running to keep your home warm. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, tasteless, odorless gas that occurs when fuel-burning appliances aren’t working properly. When people breathe in carbon monoxide, it enters the bloodstream and interferes with the absorption of oxygen by the blood cells.

If exposure continues over a long period, carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to brain damage or even death. If the symptoms are not accompanied by fever, if everyone in the family is ill, or if the symptoms disappear when you leave the house, it could be carbon monoxide poisoning.

“If you suspect carbon monoxide is in your home, get everyone out of the house and call a service professional to inspect your appliances right away. If you or anyone living in your home is seriously ill, call 911,” added Jensema.