Carbon monoxide poisoning: What are the Symptoms?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is often referred to as ‘The Silent Killer’ because you can’t smell, hear or see it. It is a highly toxic gas which can have devastating consequences on your health. With over 4000 people attending A&E departments due to carbon monoxide poisoning in England each year, knowing the symptoms could save your life.

The Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide can cause severe symptoms and even death if not detected quickly. CO poisoning symptoms are very similar to that of a common cold or flu, which is a big reason why mild symptoms can also be mistaken for a hangover. Protect yourself and others from carbon monoxide by looking out for these symptoms:

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Effects of Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Severe Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Severe carbon monoxide poisoning may lead to long-term neurological problems, with disturbances in memory, language, cognition, mood and behaviour. This causes damage to the basal ganglia, which may lead to a movement disorder resembling Parkinson’s disease.

Delayed deterioration in neurological condition is an unusual feature of severe carbon monoxide poisoning. This can occur any time from a few days to as long as five to six weeks after the initial exposure to carbon monoxide. The reason for this is not entirely clear.

Long-term Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Chronic exposure to lower levels of carbon monoxide may go unrecognised. The symptoms include milder versions of those seen in acute CO poisoning. Headache, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, fatigue and sleepiness, difficulty concentrating and memory problems, as well as changes in mood are all symptoms of this.

People are often unable to identify exactly what is the matter despite being aware that something is wrong. They may attribute the problems to overwork, stress or depression. If symptoms disappear while away at work and reappear on returning home, or if other people in the same premises develop similar symptoms, it may become more obvious that there is an environmental cause.

Removing the source of carbon monoxide results in most people recovering from chronic low-level carbon monoxide exposure. However, it can also lead to the brain being starved from oxygen. This can have devastating short term and long term effects.

Treatment for CO Poisoning

Treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning involves immediate removal of the carbon monoxide source, and administration of 100% oxygen together with general supportive medical care.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is sometimes advocated for severe cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. This involves giving your lungs much more oxygen than would be possible by breathing pure oxygen at normal air pressure. It has been suggested that this may improve the long-term neurological outcome, although it remains controversial. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a specialised technique which is only available in a few centres. It may also be associated with complications of its own and it is not used routinely.

Protect Yourself from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  1. Be in the know about carbon monoxide. Would you be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning? Learn how to spot the dangers, signs and symptoms of CO poisoning and help to educate those around you. Findings by the Gas Safe Register in 2019 revealed that only one in five respondents said they would be aware of a carbon monoxide leak in their homes if they felt unwell.
  2. Have your gas or solid fuel appliances serviced regularly. According to the latest UK inspection figures from Gas Safe Register, 5.5 million homes in the UK have unsafe gas appliances. When did you last have your appliance checked? If you rent, your landlord must have a gas safety certificate for all gas appliances to comply with regulations.
  3. Install a carbon monoxide alarm where required. It is recommended that a CO alarm be installed in every room in the house containing an appliance that could leak carbon monoxide gas. Is your home covered? Check with vulnerable friends, family or neighbours to see if they need help installing a carbon monoxide alarm. If you rent and you have a gas appliance, your landlord is legally required to provide a working carbon monoxide alarm.

Who is Most at Risk?

Lower income households are more at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, recent studies have shown. Research carried out by the National Energy Action charity and the Gas Safety Trust found that 35% of low income and vulnerable households surveyed exceeded the 10ppm threshold for carbon monoxide levels, indicating levels of carbon monoxide that are harmful with prolonged exposure. This can have adverse effects on the body and brain.

Over 60s were also found to be particularly vulnerable to CO poisoning. This could be attributed to the likelihood of them spending more time at home and feeling the cold, resulting in regular appliance use to stay warm. Elderly people, or those with respiratory problems, are also more at risk from the effects of carbon monoxide. They become ill more quickly, with symptoms being similar to those of flu or food poisoning, a headache, nausea and dizziness. These symptoms are usually attributed to those common illnesses rather than to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Headache or dizziness is a symptom of co poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can easily be mistaken for flu or a common cold or sickness bug

Other groups shown to be disproportionately affected by CO poisoning include pregnant women, young children, anyone with an existing respiratory condition and elderly people.

Carbon monoxide poisoning information sheet printable download
Download our information sheet and share with relatives or friends

Mel Saunders

Head of Marketing

Mel joined Safelincs in 2020 and leads the content and marketing team.

Are you in danger in your own home? Join the fight for a Gas Safe Nation

In light of the Covid 19 pandemic, safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. We all know that hand washing and basic hygiene are an essential part of life in 2020, but how many of us can be absolutely sure that our homes are gas safe? With Gas Safety Week celebrating its tenth year in 2020, it’s time to make sure that you, your friends and family are safe in your own homes.

Protect family and help them to get gas safe at home
Help loved ones and vulnerable individuals to get gas safe

Are you at risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Do you have a gas fire, gas boiler or gas oven? Frighteningly, statistics published by Gas Safety Week show that 1 in 2 gas fires inspected by a Gas Safe Engineer are unsafe. Carbon Monoxide emissions from a poorly fitted, poorly ventilated or faulty gas appliance can be deadly or have severe side effects. Carbon monoxide is odourless and colourless meaning that without a detector, it is very difficult to detect its presence.

There are 2 simple steps to follow to protect yourselves, your family and friends:

  1. Have your gas appliances checked and serviced every year by a Gas Safe Engineer. You can find a gas safety engineer near you here. Check to see if loved ones and vulnerable friends or neighbours have a gas safety certificate that is up to date.
  2. Install an audible carbon monoxide alarm and make sure your friends and relatives have one too. Check that they are marked EN50291 and display the British Standards’ Kitemark. You can find a great selection here that are suitable for use at home.

Common cold or Carbon monoxide poisoning?

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are much like those of a common cold or flu to begin with but can ultimately lead to a coma and death. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, a sore throat or dry cough are all common complaints, but could be as a result of exposure to CO gas. If friends, family or loved ones complain of these symptoms, seem confused or are drowsy and are having trouble breathing, you need to be alert. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, open all the windows and doors and leave your home immediately. Turn off any appliances that are in use and turn the gas off at the mains if you can. Call the Gas Emergency Services on 0800 111 999 as soon as you can. You should seek medical help straight away if you think that anyone in your household has carbon monoxide poisoning.

Identify symptoms of CO poisoning

Gas safety and Covid 19

There may be some nervousness about engineers visiting your home due to the spread of infection during the current pandemic. Tradesman have strict guidelines to follow set out by the government, but if you are worried you should check what measures your Gas Safe Engineer will be putting in place when he or she visits your home. It is important to proceed with your annual check if you can as you could be putting your family in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. With some Covid 19 restrictions still in place, and many people working remotely, we are all spending more time at home. It is now as important as ever to make your home a safe place for you and your family.

Good carbon monoxide detector to use at home
Digital Display Carbon Monoxide Alarm 10 Yr Life – Kidde 5DCO

Protect loved ones with a carbon monoxide detector

If you have vulnerable or elderly friends, relatives or neighbours, why not give them peace of mind and help them to install a carbon monoxide detector? Carbon monoxide can travel through adjoining walls and so even if you are absolutely sure that all the appliances in your home are gas safe, a detector is the only way to have complete peace of mind. Many detectors have a long life and so remain reliable for long periods and with options for audio and visual cues, there is an alarm suitable for everyone. All of our Kidde battery-operated alarms are available for FREE delivery, so you can have them delivered directly to loved ones for no extra cost and with free standing options available and the battery included on many models, they can be up and running immediately on arrival. Why not browse the range here?

Gas Safety Week challenges us all to think about making our homes as safe from the dangers of gas as possible. For more information and advice, head to the gas safety week website. Or, for more information on CO alarms, please contact our customer care team on 0800 612 6537.

Mel Saunders

Head of Marketing

Mel joined Safelincs in 2020 and leads the content and marketing team.

Is Your Holiday Home Protected From The ‘Silent Killer’? Carbon Monoxide Responsibilities For Accommodation Providers

When someone books a holiday, what features do they look for? Maybe a hot tub, fire pit or log burner for that little bit of luxury? A carbon monoxide detector might not be top of the list, but with carbon monoxide (CO), or the ‘Silent Killer’ responsible for around 60 accidental deaths every year in England and Wales, ensuring your holiday accommodation is CO safe should be a priority. Did you know that as a holiday home owner in England, you have a legal responsibility to comply with regulations relating to carbon monoxide safety? Holiday-makers want to have peace of mind that their safety is a top priority when booking a holiday, and carbon monoxide safety is no exception.

Why is carbon monoxide dangerous?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas with no smell or taste and can be difficult to detect without the aid of a carbon monoxide detector. Symptoms such as tiredness, shortness of breath, nausea and headaches can be easily mistaken for flu or food poisoning. However, after exposure to high levels for 2 hours, the person may become unconscious and could die from this poisonous gas. With such sudden consequences, early detection is critical.

Accommodation providers: Your responsibilities

CO gas is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels containing carbon, for example coal, wood, gas or charcoal. A build-up in emissions of CO gas can come from:
• Faulty gas appliances
• Fuel burning stoves, open fires or BBQs used in poorly ventilated areas
• Running a car engine in an enclosed space.

Holiday Home Owners, like landlords, have a responsibility to ensure that their properties are compliant with the regulations Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. These regulations state that a carbon monoxide detector should be fitted in any room that has a solid fuel burning appliance such as a log burner or open fire. Whilst not a legal requirement, it is also advisable to install a detector in any room with a gas or oil burning appliance such as a boiler or oven. You should also check and log all smoke and CO alarms on change-over day for added peace on mind.

The maintenance of gas appliances in all properties is also of paramount importance. The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 outlines the legal duties of self-catering accommodation providers to ensure the safety of any guests. All gas appliances should be installed and checked annually by a Gas Safe Engineer. Accommodation providers need to ensure adequate ventilation throughout the holiday accommodation. This is of particular importance in caravans, lodges and tents or glamping pods.

Provide information for your tenants

With frequent change-over of tenants and short-term occupancy, it may also help to provide a factsheet with guidance on carbon monoxide safety. Information such as how to locate and turn off the mains gas supply, what to do if the carbon monoxide alarm goes off or who to contact in an emergency may prove invaluable. Some tenants will be unfamiliar with gas appliances and general advice on how to use them safely could be useful.

Furthermore, unlike some smoke alarms that are prone to false triggers, a CO alarm is very unlikely to go off unless it detects carbon monoxide. False alarms are very unlikely and residents should be advised to act immediately and assume it is an emergency situation. Many people are not aware of the CO emissions from BBQs and camp fires. Cosy fires and family BBQs can prove deadly if emissions are allowed to accumulate in a tent, glamping pod or caravan. Campsites or caravan sites are advised to alert campers to the possible dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from these activities.

Confidence in the UK holiday market

With the trend in UK ‘staycations’ looking set to continue into next year, ensuring the safety of guests in all accommodation will only help to increase confidence in UK holidays. Families should have peace of mind that their safety is of the utmost importance. There are many options for carbon monoxide alarms including combined or separate smoke and CO alarms, audible and visual cues and fixed or portable units. The requirement of each accommodation type varies depending on size, risks and structure.

The Kidde 7DCO alarm is a great solution for most providers as it is Kitemarked as safe for use in all domestic situations as well as in caravans, boats and tents. Its 10-year lifespan, digital display and option for free-standing or wall-mounting makes it a reliable and flexible option. And, with readings taken every 15 seconds and displayed on the digital panel, guests would have complete peace of mind that they are protected from the ‘silent killer’.

A suitable carbon monoxide alarm
Digital Display Carbon Monoxide Alarm 10 Yr Warranty – Kidde 7DCO

If you are an accommodation provider and would like more information, please contact our customer care team on 0800 612 6537.

Mel Saunders

Head of Marketing

Mel joined Safelincs in 2020 and leads the content and marketing team.

Why is carbon monoxide dangerous? Advice to students

As a student, it may be the very first time that you are living away from home and you will have just settled into your new accommodation. Many things may be on your mind and the safety of your new room may not be one of them; after all, isn’t that covered by the landlord? While landlords have the full responsibility to ensure that the rooms they rent out are fully compliant, news articles would suggest that this is not always the case and that some landlords are failing to meet their responsibilities.

It is always worth checking that the basics have been ticked off; are smoke alarms and fire extinguishers installed, in date and serviced? What about carbon monoxide? what do you know about this gas and do you need protection from it? Knowing about the dangers of carbon monoxide could save your life.

What is Carbon monoxide (CO) and how will it affect you?

Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that when breathed in will attach to your red blood cells, reducing the amount of oxygen that is carried around your body. Low levels of CO over a long period can have devastating effects on your health, such as causing damage to nerves and brain as well as affecting your heart. Being exposed to high levels of CO can cause sudden unconsciousness and death.

What do you need to look out for?

University students should ensure that they know the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning, it could save their life.

You can’t see, smell or taste carbon monoxide and that is why the only way to know if this poisonous gas is present is to install a carbon monoxide detector. Having a detector that will give an audible signal if CO is present means you will get alerted even when asleep.

The symptoms of CO poisoning are very similar to flu (and hangovers!) and as such a CO leak may go undetected. The main symptoms are persistent headaches, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, stomach pains, difficulty breathing, tiredness, confusion, and sudden collapse. If your symptoms get better when you leave your accommodation and go outside that is another indicator that CO may be causing your symptoms.

How can you protect yourself?

As a student, you are most likely living in either University accommodation or a privately rented room in a shared house. Check to see if your accommodation has a carbon monoxide alarm installed. This is important if you have appliances that use fuels such as gas, oil, and wood as CO is produced from the incomplete burning of fossil fuels. If you use a fuel appliance, such as a cooker or fire, and don’t have a CO alarm fitted ask your landlord or University accommodation department to install one. It is their legal duty to provide a CO alarm for you if there is fuel used within the building.

Do you need a CO detector if you don’t have any fuel burning appliances?

Yes, it is recommended that even if you don’t have any fossil fuel appliances in your accommodation that you have at least one CO detector fitted. Carbon monoxide can seep through walls and as such you are at risk of CO poisoning from your neighbour.

Is there anything else you should look out for?

You should check that all your appliances, such as cookers, fires, and boilers are serviced every year. This is the responsibility of your landlord and a legal requirement. Ask to see the annual certificates or reports if you can’t see an in-date sticker on the appliance. If your landlord can’t produce them then insist that the service is carried out again.

In between the annual service or checks keep your eyes open for any telltale signs that the appliance isn’t working properly. These may include soot marks around the appliance, excessive condensation in the room, lazy yellow or orange coloured flames instead of a bright blue one. If you notice any of these signs inform your landlord immediately and ask for the appliance to be checked.

What do you do if carbon monoxide is detected?

If you suspect that carbon monoxide is leaking into your accommodation the first thing to do is open doors and windows to let in fresh air and ventilate the room. Turn off the appliance if safe to do so and contact the emergency services:

Gas Emergency Services (24 hours) 0800 111 999

Solid Fuel Advice Line 01773 835400

Oil (OFTEC) 01473 626298

Ambulance 999

For more information and advice on how to stay safe visit: https://www.carbonmonoxideinfo.co.uk/

*All telephone numbers were correct at time of publishing

Where can you buy a carbon monoxide alarm?

There is a wide range of carbon monoxide alarms available for different budgets, with optional features such as sealed lithium batteries that last the full lifespan of the sensor or digital screens that show the current and peak level of CO measured in the air.

Digital Carbon Monoxide Alarm - Kidde 5DCO
Digital Carbon Monoxide Alarm - Kidde 5DCO
  • Product Life: 10 years
  • Battery: AA batteries included
  • Warranty: 7 year warranty
  • Displays CO levels from 10ppm
  • Peak Level Memory - recalls highest CO levels
  • CE Marked and UKCA Marked
  • Kitemarked to BS EN 50291-1: 2018 (domestic use)
  • Also suitable for the 2022 Welsh legislation
£14.96 ex VAT
£17.95 inc VAT
Buy Now

Angie Dewick-Eisele

Director

Angie Dewick-Eisele is co-founder of Safelincs Ltd, one of the leading fire safety providers in the UK. Angie was Marketing Manager for many years and as Director is these days responsible for Content Management.