Everything you need to know about carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’. You can’t see, smell or hear it, but it kills around 50 people in the UK yearly.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is usually produced from unsafe or faulty appliances. It is a poisonous substance produced when carbon-based fuels like gas don’t burn to completion. For example, if there isn’t enough oxygen for all the gas in a boiler’s combustion chamber to be burnt, CO is produced. It’s an extremely harmful gas, that can leak and cause damage such as brain damage, heart disease and even chest pain without warning when it reaches dangerous levels.

Nevertheless, it is preventable. In this post, we have outlined the key things you need to know about carbon monoxide, to help prevent it from causing you or your family any harm. The key is being proactive to eliminate exposure to carbon monoxide.

The 7 key things you need to know about carbon monoxide poisoning:

Causes of carbon monoxide poisoning

It is usually caused by faulty or unsafe appliances – such as heating systems or gas appliances (e.g. gas hobs).

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

  1. Dizziness
  2. Confusion An irregular heartbeat
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Feeling faint
  5. Nausea
  6. Falling unconscious

Food poisoning vs carbon monoxide poisoning

The above symptoms can be very easily confused for food poisoning or viral infections so a carbon monoxide monitor is a must.

Who is most at risk?

As with many things, children and the elderly are most likely to be at risk. It’s also important to keep an eye on any unusual behaviour in your pets as cats and dogs may show similar symptoms.

Should you buy a carbon monoxide monitor?

Yes is the short answer – a detector is only around £20-£30 and could eliminate a huge risk in your home. These can be bought from most DIY stores on the high street (e.g. B&Q).

What to do if you have symptoms?

Air your house straight away and turn off all appliances. It is then very important to get checked by the doctor immediately. Check the Gas Safe guidance if you’re unsure.

Gas Safe Registered Engineer

Make sure your appliances are checked by a Gas Safe Engineer. These should also be serviced regularly by them too for prevention.

Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning

Prevention is the best way to avoid Carbon Monoxide poisoning. You should always have your appliances checked and approved by a Gas Safe Registered Engineer, and you should install a detector in your house, so you don’t find out too late – when the symptoms kick in. The Gas Safe Register does not recommend the use of ‘black spot detector’ warning strips – they don’t alert you when something is wrong, and the markings are easy to miss. Get your appliances serviced regularly, and when they are showing warning signs, are aging or are faulty, then maybe it’s time to get a new one. We have outlined some tips about common signs that it’s time to get a new boiler here.

Read our blog on how to spot the signs you need a new boiler.