Carbon monoxide has no taste, colour or smell, yet it is a highly poisonous gas which claims lives every year. Because it’s so difficult to detect, it’s possible to inhale carbon monoxide without realising you are doing so – with often fatal results.
When carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream it prevents the blood cells from carrying oxygen and it is this lack of oxygen which causes death.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is usually the result of incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained gas appliances. It can also happen when flues, chimneys or air vents are blocked.
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Many symptoms are similar to those of flu, food poisoning and viral infections. At first, you might just have a general sense of feeling tired and unwell but nothing specific.
The big clue is that you feel worse when you are at home, with symptoms less severe when you are elsewhere.
Continued exposure to carbon monoxide may lead to you feeling dizzy, drowsy and unable to concentrate. You might start feeling unsteady on your feet or short of breath.
If the people you live with are experiencing similar symptoms, you should suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.
You are particularly at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when you are asleep as you will not notice the early symptoms. If you think you may have been exposed to carbon monoxide open all windows and seek medical help.
In instances of immediate danger, call the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999.
CO Awareness has a carbon monoxide myth buster on its website.
Carbon monoxide detectors
Carbon monoxide detectors are cheap to buy and readily available from high street stores and online.
Action on Hearing Loss sells CO detectors suitable for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
If you are over 60, Care and Repair Cymru may be able to fit a carbon monoxide detector in your home. Contact your local agency or telephone: 0300 111 3333.