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Suffering from flu-like or hangover symptoms? It could be time to get your gas appliances checked.

What is carbon monoxide (CO)?

Carbon Monoxide Detector Being Tested
Carbon Monoxide Detector Test

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas produced by the incomplete burning of natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). This can happen when a gas appliance has been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained. It can also occur if flues, chimneys or vents are blocked. Solid fuels, such as coal, wood, petrol, and oil, can also produce carbon monoxide when they burn.

CO can be deadly and is especially dangerous because you can’t see, taste or smell it, and some symptoms mimic the effects of viruses and even a bad hangover. It’s essential to know the physical symptoms of CO poisoning to ensure you seek help quickly.

What are the physical symptoms of CO poisoning?

CO poisoning occurs when you breathe in CO, replacing the oxygen in your bloodstream, causing body tissue and cells to die. Even small amounts of the gas can cause poisoning, and long-term exposure can result in paralysis and even brain damage.

CO poisoning symptoms are similar to those of flu, food poisoning, viral infections, fatigue, and a hangover, which makes it easy to mistake this very dangerous poisoning for something else.

The Six Main Symptoms To Look Out For Are:

  1. Headaches

  2. Dizziness

  3. Nausea

  4. Breathlessness

  5. Collapse

  6. Loss of consciousness

Anybody who has overdone it on a night out will be familiar with some or all of those symptoms, but if you experience them without drinking, it’s time to be concerned. Being aware of these symptoms could save your life.

Other signs could indicate CO poisoning, such as:

  1. Symptoms occur when you are at home but seem to disappear when you leave.

  2. Others in your household (including pets) are experiencing similar symptoms at a similar time.

It’s essential to know the signs of a carbon monoxide leak in your home because knowing them can ensure you aren’t exposed to dangerous levels of CO for an extended period.

What are the signs of a carbon monoxide leak: Checking your gas appliances.

Any of the following could be a sign of CO in your home:

  1. Floppy yellow or orange flame on your gas hob rather than crisp blue

  2. Dark, sooty staining on or around gas appliances

  3. Pilot lights that frequently blow out.

  4. Increased condensation inside windows

If you detect any of these signs, please contact DDWilson, as we are Gas Safe registered engineers, and we will immediately come and inspect your gas appliances and flues. Remember that not getting your gas appliances regularly checked or using an engineer who isn’t Gas Safe registered can put you and your family at risk.

What to do if you suspect CO poisoning

  1. Don’t delay - get fresh air immediately.

  2. Open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and leave the house.

  3. See your doctor immediately or go to the hospital. They can do a blood or breath test to check and can advise if you need treatment for CO poisoning.

If you think there is an immediate danger, call the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999 (GB) or the relevant service for your area. You can also visit the NHS website for detailed information on the symptoms of CO poisoning, what action to take, and the treatment usually provided.

Stay safe with a carbon monoxide alarm.

The most important thing you can do to minimise the risk of CO is to ensure that your gas appliances are safety checked annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

Installing an accredited carbon monoxide leak detector, or audible CO alarm, in your home or business is an excellent second line of defence, as they emit a sound when CO is detected. However, because an alarm only activates once there is CO present, you should never rely on it as your sole form of prevention.

To ensure their effectiveness, ensure any alarm you buy is marked EN 50291 and has the British Standards Kitemark. We don’t recommend the use of ‘black spot detector’ warning strips because their warning is too easily missed, and they don’t emit a sound, so they won’t alert you if you have a CO leak whilst you’re asleep.

What are carbon monoxide alarms?

Carbon monoxide detectors are an early alert for possible carbon monoxide poisoning. They can be installed in and around your home, as described in the manufacturer guidelines and work much like your fire or smoke alarm by sounding an alarm when they detect carbon monoxide. Various models are available on the market, so be sure to find one suitable.

Modern CO alarms look like smoke alarms (which do not detect CO), and you can purchase one for around £20 at most major retail outlets, including DIY stores and supermarkets. Fitting an alarm in every room with a gas appliance is advisable, following the manufacturer’s fitting instructions carefully. Typically, CO alarms have a lifetime of between 5-10 years. Just like your smoke alarm, remember to test your CO alarm regularly.

If you’re unsure which alarm to get, ask a Gas Safe registered engineer for advice.

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