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Dying to go away?

The schools are out for summer and many of us are counting down to our big summer getaway. Whether heading abroad or planning a staycation, we all need a break to make memories with family and friends. However, an amazing holiday can quickly turn into your worst nightmare if you are not aware of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning.

In the UK, this type of poisoning accounts for an average of 50 recorded deaths a year in the home and up to 4,000 medical visits, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

While most of us know that appliances such as gas boilers and cookers can emit CO gas and should be serviced regularly, how do you know your holiday let has had all the relevant gas safety checks? Those using holiday homes could also be at risk if the boiler/heat source has not been used for some time, or regularly checked by a registered engineer. 

“What many people don’t realise,” Explains Jerry Whiteley, Technical Manager of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), “Is that those on camping, caravanning or boating holiday’s are at risk too. Portable gas or fuel burning appliances, as well as engines and BBQs can emit Carbon Monoxide if they are not maintained regularly or used correctly. All appliances can develop faults, even when not in use.”

So why is Carbon Monoxide so dangerous? It is a natural gas created by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. Crucially, it has no smell, no taste and no colour, making it extremely hard to detect. 

Symptoms are very similar to flu or food poisoning, so victims are often unaware they are feeling the effects of a deadly killer, putting it down to a bug or something they ate. CO poisoning will affect children, the elderly and pregnant women first. So, if anyone in your party starts feeling symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, lack of concentration, memory loss, disorientation, irritability and tightness across the chest, you need to consider the possibility that CO as a cause.

“All landlords (including for holiday lets) must have gas safety checks annually so ask to see proof of this before you book accommodation.” Continued Jerry. 

“NEVER take a previously lit BBQ inside, as both lit and dying coals can emit CO. This advice stands whether it’s a house, flat, tent, camper van or boat. Deadly fumes can build in seconds in confined spaces.”

“Finally, when going on holiday, make sure you take an electronic portable Carbon Monoxide alarm which will make noise if Carbon Monoxide is detected. If you have a battery-powered CO alarm, make sure batteries are fully charged prior to going away.”

For more information on Carbon Monoxide poisoning visit www.ciphe.org.uk/CO

Suspect a problem? To find a registered heating engineer in your area visit www.ciphe.org.uk/find-a-plumber