Warning over carbon monoxide poisoning

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Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Over the summer holidays many families will be heading off camping, caravanning or boating, so the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding people of the danger of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in enclosed spaces.

Hilary Johnston, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager with the PHA, said, “While carbon monoxide is usually associated with domestic fossil fuel-burning appliances, incidents and even deaths can also occur in caravans and on board boats.

“Faulty gas cookers, appliances or petrol-powered generators have led to carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide has also been linked to deaths where people have brought gas and charcoal barbecues into tents and other small enclosed spaces, sometimes in an attempt to keep warm.

“It is important to remind people that despite being out in the fresh air, carbon monoxide can build up very quickly in enclosed spaces to levels that can kill. Therefore it is important for people to be aware of the symptoms of carbon monoxide and ways to reduce their risk.”

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Carbon monoxide is a colourless, tasteless and odourless gas that is non-irritating and as a result can be very hard to detect. The signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often mistaken for other illnesses, such as food poisoning or flu.

Symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • breathlessness
  • •nausea and vomiting
  • exhaustion
  • drowsiness
  • light-headedness
  • collapse and loss of consciousness

Following some safety steps can reduce your risk. Steps include:

  • Install an audible carbon monoxide alarm in your caravan, holiday home or boat. These alarms have a limited life span, so if you’ve had one for a while, please check to see if they are working properly – it might be time to buy a new one.
  • Never take a barbecue inside.
  • Never use a fuel-burning appliance to heat your tent, awning, caravan or boat. (Gas and kerosene heaters – unless they are permanently fitted in a caravan or motorhome – should only be used outside.)
  • Never run a gas, petrol or diesel-powered generator inside.
  • Don’t cook inside your tent or awning.
  • Don’t use any other gas, charcoal, liquid or solid fuel appliances inside a tent or awning. Gas-powered fridges and lamps, for example, also need plenty of ventilation to prevent them producing poisonous carbon monoxide. Tents and awnings aren’t generally designed with this in mind.
  • Always have gas appliances in your caravan or boat serviced regularly.

“Anyone who suspects they are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning should immediately go outside into the fresh air and seek urgent medical attention,” Hilary added.

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