It’s one of the biggest causes of death by poisoning in the UK, with roughly 40 deaths being recorded each year. Yet very few are fully aware as to what carbon monoxide poisoning is, how it occurs or how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones.
To help prevent you and your family members becoming another statistic, in this post we explain what carbon monoxide poisoning is, the symptoms of such poisoning and how you can take steps to protect your loved ones from it.
What is Carbon Monoxide / Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas, often known as the “silent killer” due to having no smell or taste. As a result, carbon monoxide can be extremely dangerous within the home and it’s been estimated 200 people are admitted to hospital each year with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.
Such poisoning can occur, even if only a small amount of carbon monoxide is inhaled. As the gas enters the body, it prevents blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues and organs – which in some cases can be fatal.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:
Despite carbon monoxide being known as the “silent killer”, there are a number of symptoms which you (or your loved ones) are likely to experience should you be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Such symptoms can be split into low level and high level symptoms, and are as follows:
Low Level Symptoms:
- Tiredness / Confusion
- Shortness of breath / Difficulty breathing
- Stomach pain
It’s also worth noting that such symptoms may be less severe when you’re away from the home / away from the source of carbon monoxide, but come back as you return.
High Level Symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Loss of consciousness
What Causes Carbon Monoxide Poisoning / Signs Issues with Gas Appliances:
Potentially the most common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning are:
- Incorrectly installed gas appliances
- Poorly maintained gas appliances
- Poorly ventilated gas appliances – which can be caused as a result of blocked flues and chimneys
Signs your gas appliances, including your boiler, cooker and gas fires may be causing carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Black / sooty marks on the front of gas appliances, on the walls around such appliances
- Yellow instead of blue flames burning on gas appliances
- Pilot light frequently blowing out
- Increased condensation
In addition to the 4 points above, other signs of carbon monoxide poisoning in your property include the symptoms being seasonal – for example, being increased during the winter months when your central heating is used more – or a number of people in the property being ill with the same symptoms at the same time.
How to Protect Your Family from Carbon Monoxide:
Protecting your family from the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning is relatively simple, and it isn’t something which should be ignored. By taking preventative steps you can make all the difference between you and your family suffering from such poisoning and not.
Key steps you should take to protect your family from the risk of such poisoning include:
- Fitting carbon monoxide detectors (with British Standard EN50291) within each room which has a gas appliance. These should be fitted just above head height and at least 1 metre away from the gas appliance.
- It’s also important to make sure your carbon monoxide detectors aren’t fitted in a cupboard or enclosed space; whilst as with your smoke alarm the gas detectors should be tested on a regular basis.
- Having your boiler and gas appliances serviced annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer
- Having new gas appliances installed by a Gas Safe registered engineer
- Keeping all flues, grilles and air vents clear and well ventilated
In addition to taking the above preventative steps, to help reduce the risk of you and your loved ones becoming victims of carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s important to make sure:
- Your boiler’s pilot light is always lit. If it keeps blowing out, there’s likely to be a fault with the boiler which will need immediate attention from a Gas Safe registered engineer.
- There’s enough ventilation within your home, particularly near your gas appliances, for the air to circulate.
- All chimneys are cleaned twice a year – this is particularly important if you have a wood or coal burning stove.
Should you suspect you’ve got a carbon monoxide leak within your home, make sure you open all doors and windows to ventilate the property, turn all gas appliances off, vacate the house and call the National Gas Emergency Service.
Understanding what carbon monoxide is, what causes carbon monoxide poisoning and how to protect yourself and your loved ones from it can make all the difference. Don’t take a risk, make sure your home is protected.