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Don’t let Carbon Monoxide ruin your holiday

With the summer holidays on the way it’s easy to feel happy and care-free. It should be a time for enjoying life, for spending time with family and friends. Yet every year Carbon Monoxide (CO) hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Whether its incidents in holiday accommodation abroad, or cases of campsite or boating poisonings at home, the evidence suggests that it could be wise to invest in a portable CO alarm, or to at least know the signs to help keep you and your loved ones safe.

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. Once inhaled, carbon monoxide inhibits the transference of oxygen around the body, starving the organs of oxygen. This oxygen starvation particularly affects the heart, brain and central nervous system. Symptoms are very similar to flu or food poisoning, so victims are often unaware they are feeling the effects of a deadly killer.

While carbon monoxide poisoning is still rare, the consequences really can be a matter of life-and-death. So, with thoughts of summer holidays ahead what can you do?

1) Take a portable alarm with you. We would advise 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.

2) Keep a vigilant eye on children, the elderly or pregnant women in your party. CO poisoning will affect them first. If anyone starts feeling symptoms (which will improve when away from the affected property), you need to consider CO as a cause.

Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • Memory loss
  • Disorientation
  • Irritability
  • Tightness across the chest.


3) Don’t feel silly about raising concerns if you see any of the above signs. Remember the severity of symptoms depend on the amount of carbon monoxide inhaled and the period over which the victim has been exposed. As the level of CO in the body increases the symptoms will develop to include:

  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Lack of co-ordination
  • Lack of balance
  • Problems with the heart
  • Cerebral edema
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • And, ultimately, death.


And lastly, if you walk into a room where family members are unconscious, or in a state of disorientation you need to suspect CO poisoning. Open all windows and doors and put out the heat source. Immediately call an ambulance.  If enough CO has disbursed and it is safe to do so, move occupants outside into the fresh air – do not put yourself at risk, if the gas leak is at a lethal level, you can be overcome in seconds.

Find out more about Carbon Monoxide