Every year in the United Kingdom, there are on average four hundred admissions to hospital with Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning. Alarmingly, there are also around 40-50 deaths, so what do you need to know and how can you protect yourself and your family?
Carbon Monoxide is a highly poisonous gas produced by the incomplete burning of fuel such as Natural Gas and Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG). This happens when an appliance has been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained. It can also occur if flues, chimneys or vents are blocked. Oil and solid fuels such as coal, wood, petrol and oil can also produce carbon monoxide.
Carbon Monoxide is incredibly dangerous because it binds very tightly to haemoglobin in the red blood cells and reduces the amount of Oxygen that can be carried in the bloodstream. The binding of Carbon Monoxide to haemoglobin is actually over 200 times stronger than for oxygen, so the CO effectively takes up all the space on the haemoglobin, pushing out the Oxygen. In addition, it interferes with the delivery of oxygen from haemoglobin into the body tissues, causing severe fatigue which can eventually lead to collapse.
These effects severely reduce the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and limit the availability of oxygen to the body, with the brain and heart being particularly vulnerable. This can lead to permanent brain injury. Pregnant women and unborn babies are particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of Carbon Monoxide. Being aware of the symptoms early could save your life.
Carbon monoxide symptoms are similar to flu, food poisoning, viral infections and simply tiredness. That’s why it’s quite common for people to mistake this potentially fatal condition for something else – “It’s just a bug going around again” – unfortunately there’s usually an upsurge of flu at the same time as the heating is used more often.
Your symptoms only occur when you are at home,This is why it is important to recognise other signs that could indicate carbon monoxide poisoning:
Your symptoms disappear or get better when you leave home and come and back when you return,
Others in your household are experiencing symptoms (including your pets) and they appear at a similar time.
There are a number of obvious signs of excess Carbon Monoxide in your home, apart from the flu like symptoms you, your family and pets may be suffering. These include excess condensation on your windows, dark staining on or around appliances and lazy yellow flames instead of the usual blue and crisp ones you’ll see in your boiler and heater pilot lights. If you believe anyone in your household is suffering from Carbon Monoxide poisoning then you need to:
Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and leave the house as soon as you can,
See your GP or go to A&E and let them know that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. They can do a blood/breath test to check,
If you think there is immediate danger, call the Gas Emergency Helpline .
You can always get a Gas Safe registered engineer to come to your home and inspect your boiler and other sources of heating and you should install Carbon Monoxide detectors wherever you have gas, oil or solid fuel heaters, boilers or open fires. Carbon Monoxide detectors look very similar to normal smoke detectors and are easy to install.
Until next time …Remember hotel rooms, caravans, mobile homes and even tents can present a danger where gas appliances are in use. Consider taking your own device on holiday if you are concerned for your family’s safety. FTS Safety Solutions currently have Carbon Monoxide detectors on special offer so why not call us on 0330 6600264 and be safe in the knowledge that your family are protected?