(WHTM) — Now that the temperatures are starting to fall, more people will be turning their heat on in their homes or apartments. But with some heating systems comes a hidden danger: carbon monoxide.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, also abbreviated as CO, is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas. Burning fuels such as gas, wood, propane and charcoal all create carbon monoxide. Car engines and some appliances also create this gas.

Why is carbon monoxide dangerous?

CO is extremely harmful, and it can poison you. Mayo Clinic says that carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when the gas builds up in the blood. When this happens the body replaces oxygen in the red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This can lead to serious health issues and even death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 420 people die each year due to accidental CO poisoning, and around 100,000 people are taken to the emergency room each year due to being poisoned by carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide can be found in many different methods of heating. The gas can be found in certain furnaces, kerosene heaters, vehicles warming up in garages, stoves, lanterns and other heating devices and appliances. When carbon monoxide builds up in enclosed spaces, the people or animals in them can die from breathing too much of the gas.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

The CDC says that the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. Some have also reported that they felt flu-like symptoms.

It is also noted that people who are sleeping or have been drinking alcohol can suffer brain damage or die of carbon monoxide poisoning before they realize they have symptoms.

How can you stay safe from carbon monoxide?

Some tips to keep you and your family safe from carbon monoxide include:

  • Make sure to have a carbon monoxide detector in your home and consider buying one with a digital readout. Check and replace the battery when you change the clocks in the spring and fall
  • Ensure that your heating system is being serviced annually. Also make sure any other gas, oil, or coal-burning appliances are serviced as well.
  • Never use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors, and do not heat cars inside an enclosed space.
  • If running a gas-powered generator, make sure it is in a well-vented environment or completely outside.
  • Make sure all vents are free of debris, so gas has a way to escape.

If you think you or someone else has been poisoned, call 911 right away.