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Carbon Monoxide - the hidden holiday danger

School is nearly out for summer and we are all looking forward to a well-earned break in the sun. Whether you are holidaying abroad or taking a staycation, it’s all about having fun and making memories with family or friends.

However, if you start to feel unwell, how do you know if it’s just a bug doing the rounds or something more sinister? According to figures from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England & Wales there are 40 deaths and 200 hospitalisations each year due to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide or CO is a natural gas created by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. It has no smell, no taste and no colour, making it extremely hard to detect and therefore extremely dangerous. 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.

So how can you protect yourself? Portable Carbon Monoxide alarms can be a great addition to your luggage, whether you are heading off in a camper van or flying off to warmer climes. The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) advise taking an electronic alarm, which will make noise if Carbon Monoxide is detected. If you have a battery-powered alarm, make sure batteries are fully charged prior to going away. You can pick one up from most builders and DIY merchants, with prices starting from £13.00.

The CIPHE also warn to keep a vigilant eye on any children, elderly or pregnant women in your party. CO poisoning will affect them first. So, if anyone 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 CO as a cause.

Those using holiday homes could be at risk if the boiler/heat source has not been used for some time or regularly checked by a registered engineer. Appliances can develop faults, even when not in use. Likewise those camping need to remember that any portable gas or fuel burning appliances are at risk of Carbon Monoxide if they are not maintained regularly or used correctly.

Last but not least, NEVER take a lit BBQ inside (this also includes into tents, camper vans etc.). Even dying coals can emit CO.

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