Why do I need to protect myself from carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas produced by the incomplete burning of natural gas or liquified petroleum gas (LPG). carbon monoxide can be deadly and is very hard to detect because you can’t see, smell or taste it. That is why it is important to understand the physical symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, and to have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home.
CO can be released into the air when a gas appliance such as your boiler, gas fire, cooker, or fireplace, is not working correctly. Solid fuels such as coal, petrol, wood and oil also produce CO when they burn.
To minimise the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important to ensure your gas appliances are checked regularly by a qualified professional to keep them in full working order.
What are the physical symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning to look out for?
CO poisoning occurs when you breathe in carbon monoxide and it replaces the oxygen in your bloodstream, causing body tissue and cells to die. Even small amounts of the gas can cause poisoning, and long-term exposure can result in paralysis and even brain damage.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide are very similar to viruses, the flu, food poisoning and even a bad hangover. Large exposures can result in loss of consciousness, arrhythmias, seizures, or death.
The six most common symptoms to look out for are:
- Nausea/feeling sick
- Tiredness and confusion
- Stomach pain
Being aware of these symptoms could save your life. Other signs that could indicate carbon monoxide poisoning, are when:
- Symptoms occur when you are at home but seem to disappear when you leave.
- Others in your household (including pets) are experiencing similar symptoms at a similar time.
Looking for signs of a carbon dioxide leak
There are numerous things you can do and ways you can educate yourself in order to be aware of the presence of carbon monoxide and help you take the right action in the event of a leak.
Any of the following could be a sign carbon monoxide is leaking from your appliance.
- A gas flame on an appliance appears ‘floppy’ and burns orange or yellow rather than blue
- Your pilot light frequently blows out
- Soot or yellow-brown staining around an appliance
- Seeing or smelling smoke
- Having excessive condensation inside windows
Remember, it is vital to have your gas appliances regularly checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer who is qualified to investigate the presence of CO. Visit the Gas Safe Register website choosing ‘Fumes investigation’ in the appliance tab.
What to do in the event of carbon monoxide poisoning
The safety of you and your family is vitally important. If you suspect that you may have a carbon monoxide leak in your property, follow these steps:
- Get fresh air. Go outside, and open windows to ventilate your home
- Turn off your gas appliances to prevent more carbon monoxide being released
- Visit your doctor or go to A&E if you think you’ve been exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide.
- If you think there’s an immediate danger, call the National Gas Emergency number on 0800 111 999
Carbon monoxide alarms save lives
The easiest way to detect carbon monoxide gas is by installing a carbon monoxide alarm in every room where a gas appliance is situated. Make sure that when you purchase an alarm it is marked EN 50291 and has the British Standards Kitemark.
Remember to test your carbon monoxide alarm regularly to ensure it’s in working order.