What is Carbon Monoxide (CO)?

You can't see it. You can't smell it. You can't taste it. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas that is released when any fossil fuel doesn't burn properly.

Breathing it in can make you unwell, and it can kill. Even low levels of exposure, over a long period, can cause serious health issues.

If you suspect CO poisoning, your emergency numbers are: 0800 111 999 (gas) 0845 6014406 (coal) 08456 585080 (oil). In a medical emergency, don't delay, call 999 immediately.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?

CO poisoning happens when you breathe in even small amounts of this poisonous gas. Every year around 40 people die and over 4,000 are injured as a result of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

A headache is the most common symptom of mild carbon monoxide poisoning. Other symptoms can include:

  • dizziness
  • nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
  • tiredness and confusion
  • stomach pain
  • shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be similar to those of food poisoning and the flu. However, unlike the flu, carbon monoxide poisoning does not cause a high temperature (fever).

Ways to stay safe

  • Look out for gas appliances that are burning with a floppy yellow or orange flame that is normally crisp and blue
  • Extra condensation inside windows
  • Pilot lights on boilers frequently blowing out
  • Soot or yellow stains around appliances

All these could be signs of a problem. You should get your appliances serviced annually by a Gas Safe Registered Engineer.

Get an audible CO alarm which is certified to British Standard BS EN 50291 which can be purchased from your local DIY store, supermarket or energy supplier. Make sure it’s in the correct position too!

Remember, alarms are important but they're not a substitute for annual gas safety checks.

Outside your home

It isn't just the gas appliances in your home that can produce CO. Any appliance powered by coal, oil or wood can also produce CO. So, it's also important to be aware of CO if you are planning to stay in holiday accommodation, on a boat or at a campsite. Never use a BBQ in an enclosed space such as a tent or awning



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