Current Suspected Overdose Deaths in Delaware for 2018: 213 logo

DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498

Date: November 23, 2011


During the winter months, Delawareans may assume that any dizziness, headaches and fatigue they experience are caused by a bug going around. Carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, toxic gas, can also cause these symptoms, along with nausea, vomiting, chest pain and disorientation. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, each year carbon monoxide poisoning claims approximately 400 lives nationwide and sends another 20,000 people to hospital emergency rooms for treatment.

"Carbon monoxide's symptoms can make people feel too sick to move to safety," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, Director of the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH). "That's why it's important to have a detector in your home that can provide an early warning for you to leave."

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels burn. Improperly functioning or inadequately ventilated heating systems, stoves, fireplaces, space heaters, cars, small gasoline engines and outdoor equipment can cause carbon monoxide to build up rapidly indoors. At high levels, such as occur when running a car or other engine in a closed garage, carbon monoxide can be rapidly fatal. Children, elderly, smokers, people with heart and respiratory disease, and those with increased oxygen needs due to fever, hyperthyroidism or pregnancy are considered most susceptible. Carbon monoxide poisoning in pregnant women can cause birth defects.

"It's important to pay attention to small children and pets in the house. They are usually the first ones to become susceptible to the fumes," said Jerry Brennan, training administrator at the Delaware State Fire School. "If they appear to be more sleepy than usual or are not acting normally remove them to fresh air and see if their condition improves."

To stay safe, follow these recommendations:

DPH's Healthy Homes program offers a home health hazard assessment. For more information, call (302) 744-4546 or visit

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.