Spotting The Symptoms Of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that has no smell or taste, however breathing in even small amounts of it can make you unwell, and high levels can cause death.

Every year more than 200 consumers are admitted to hospital with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.  Of these 200, 50 will die. So what causes carbon monoxide poisoning and how can consumers know when its present?

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as oil, coal or wood, don’t burn properly.  Gas, oil, coal and wood are all used as the fuel in everyday household appliances such as gas fires, boilers, central heating systems, cookers and even open fires.  If any of these appliances are not correctly installed and ventilated or not checked regularly, this can lead to carbon monoxide leaking and ultimately, carbon monoxide poisoning.

After carbon monoxide is breathed in, it enters your bloodstream and mixes with haemoglobin (the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body), to form carboxyhaemoglobin.  When this happens, the blood is no longer able to carry oxygen, and this lack of oxygen causes the body’s cells and tissue to fail and die.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide are not always obvious making it a silent killer.  The most common symptom from low levels of carbon monoxide is a tension-type headache, however, dizziness, nausea (and vomiting), tiredness and confusion, stomach pain and shortness of breath are also symptoms.

The longer someone is exposed to the gas the worse the symptoms will get which can range from just drowsiness whilst sat by the fire, all the way to losing consciousness.  Other long-term exposure effects include; impaired mental state, vertigo, and seizures.  If consciousness is lost, which can happen in just two hours if the carbon monoxide levels are high enough, death can happen within minutes.

The good news is that carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented.  Here are some steps for consumers to follow to make sure your workplace and home are safe;

  • First things first- install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home to alert you if there’s a carbon monoxide leak- test this regularly as as many as 8/10 are proven to to detecting gas after only a short period of time
  • Boilers, cookers, heating systems and appliances should be installed and regularly serviced by a reputable, registered engineer
  • Make sure all chimneys and flues are swept regularly by a qualified sweep
  • Make sure rooms are well-ventilated and don’t block air vents
  • Regularly take time to test your alarms. He a good neighbor and help test the alarms of family or friends who may be vulnerable
  • To effectively test, the alarm’s sensor must also be tested to ensure that it is working and is able to detect gas.  This is best managed using a CO alarm test kit that can be used with all domestic CO alarms. With a calibrated gas test kit a sufficient and controlled amount of CO can be delivered to test the sensor effectively without risk of harm.

For more information on how to effectively test your alarm visit:


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