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Carbon monoxide

What is Carbon Monoxide?

  • Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels including gas, oil, wood and coal.
  • Sources can include cookers, heaters and fireplaces.
  • You can’t see it, taste it or smell it, but CO can kill quickly without warning.

What are the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can mimic many common ailments and may easily be confused with food poisoning, viral infections, flu or simple tiredness.

  • headache,
  • feeling sick (nausea) and dizziness,
  • you may also feel tired and confused, and
  • some people are sick (vomit) and have abdominal pain.  

The symptoms of CO poisoning can resemble those of food poisoning and the flu because they have similar symptoms. However, unlike flu, CO poisoning does not cause a high temperature.

Symptoms that may come on later include:

  • confusion,
  • loss of memory, and
  • problems with co-ordination.

For more information visit NHS direct.

How to prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning

  • Make sure all appliances are installed and maintained by a professional.

  • Keep chimney flues free from blockages - for more information visit chimney fire safety.
  • Ensure your home has enough ventilation and airbricks are not blocked.
  • Protect your family from this silent killer by fitting a CO alarm approved to BS EN 50291.

What to do if your carbon monoxide alarm sounds or you suspect a leak

  • Stop using all appliances, switch them off, and open doors and windows to ventilate the property.
  • Evacuate the property immediately. Stay calm.
  • Call the emergency number: 0800 111 999 to report the incident, or Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Gas Safety Advice Line 0800 300 363.
  • Seek immediate medical help and advice if you think you have been exposed to carbon monoxide.
  • Go immediately to your local Accident and Emergency Department (A&E) if you are feeling unwell after being exposed to carbon monoxide.
  • Never go back into the property, wait for advice from the Emergency Services.

Supporting information

If you suspect you have carbon monoxide poisoning, don't hesitate to visit your General Practitioner (GP) as soon as possible. Diagnosing carbon monoxide poisoning is not easy because it simulates many other conditions, so do say what you think is wrong.

Ask for either a blood and/or breath sample to be taken without delay. That's because your body's carbon monoxide level will reduce the longer you are away from the contaminated environment, making it harder to detect.

Posters to help promote the dangers of CO

We have provided the below posters which you can print and share on notice boards for others to see and help make them aware of the dangers:

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