You can't see it, taste it or smell it but it can kill quickly and with no warning. Unsafe gas appliances produce a highly poisonous gas called carbon monoxide (CO). It can cause death as well as serious long-term health problems such as brain damage.
Carbon monoxide poisoning - what are the symptoms?
Common symptoms include headaches, nausea, breathlessness, collapse, dizziness and loss of consciousness.
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 very dangerous poisoning for something else.
Other signs that could point to carbon monoxide poisoning
- Your symptoms only occur when you are at home and disappear or get better when you leave home and come back when you return.
- Others in your household are experiencing symptoms (including your pets) and they appear at a similar time.
What is carbon monoxide poisoning?
- Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when you breathe in even small amounts of the gas.
- When you breathe in carbon monoxide, it gets into your blood stream and prevents your red blood cells from carrying oxygen. Without oxygen, your body tissue and cells die.
- Levels that do not kill can cause serious harm to health when inhaled over a long period of time. Long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning include paralysis and brain damage.
Signs that carbon monoxide could be in your home
- The flame on your cooker, fire or boiler should be crisp and blue, yellow or orange flames mean you need to get your appliances checked.
- Soot or dark staining around or on appliances.
- Pilot lights that frequently blow out.
- Increased condensation inside windows.
If you have a faulty appliance in your home, it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Get it checked as soon as possible by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Why should I get a carbon monoxide alarm?
- Because carbon monoxide has no taste, smell or colour you should fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm in your home.
- While an alarm will alert you to carbon monoxide in your home, it is no substitute for using a Gas Safe registered engineer.
- A carbon monoxide alarm looks similar to a smoke alarm and is very easy to fit by following the manufacturer's instructions. You can purchase a carbon monoxide alarm for around £15 at your local DIY store, supermarket or from your energy supplier.
- Before purchasing a carbon monoxide alarm, always make sure it is officially approved to BS:EN50291:2001 or BS:EN50291:2010. It must have a British or European approval mark on it, such as a Kitemark.
- You are particularly at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping, as you may not be aware of early carbon monoxide symptoms until it's too late. Do not use the ‘black spot' detectors that change colour when carbon monoxide is present. These will not make a sound to wake you up if the poisonous gas is present while you are sleeping.
For further information and to find a register of qualified gas engineers, please go to the Gas Safe website.