The Silent Killer
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Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colourless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. Carbon monoxide is found in combustion fumes such as those produced by fires, cookers, lanterns, gas heating systems, cars, or by burning charcoal and wood. Carbon monoxide from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned by breathing it.
The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pains, and confusion. High levels of carbon monoxide ingestion can cause loss of consciousness and death. Unless suspected, carbon monoxide poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses. People who are sleeping can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.
All people and animals are at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Certain groups; pregnant mums, unborn babies, infants, and people with chronic heart disease, anaemia, or respiratory problems, are more susceptible to its effects. Every year people die from carbon monoxide poisoning but due to the fact that carbon monoxide poison is not tested for at death here in the UK we don't know how big the problem really is.
Taking simple precautions can prevent poisoning from carbon monoxide. Have your appliances checked annually and use a CO detector as a backup.
In order to decrease the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning within the home, it is important to stick to some basic but very important rules:
* Always have your appliances fitted by a certified and experienced professional
* Have your appliances checked regularly, and have your vents and chimney checked and cleaned on a regular basis
* Always adhere to manufacturers' instructions when using these appliances
* Never use fuel-burning appliances in enclosed and un-vented spaces
* Never use a gas stove or oven to warm your home
* Make sure that you have a high-standard CO detector fitted outside sleeping areas and main living areas. This should be placed high up or on the ceiling as CO rises rapidly.
* Be aware of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning so that you can take appropriate action should the need arise.
Knowledge is the key to preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. In most cases of unintentional poisonings, victims don't realise that carbon monoxide was being produced or building up in the air they were breathing.
Carbon monoxide can be easily be detected in the home by fitting a carbon monoxide detector. Consider placing a carbon monoxide alarm on each level of your home, but remember that a carbon monoxide detector should only be used as a back up to your annual safety check carried out by a CORGI-registered engineer.
Carbon monoxide can be produced by all fossil fuels such as gas, coal, wood etc so please don't assume you are safe just because there is no gas in your home.
For more information on Carbon monoxide visit the CO awareness website: