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What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas produced by some fuel-burning appliances.

Read on to discover everything you need to know about this ‘silent killer’ to keep you and your family safe.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an odourless and colourless poisonous gas that is produced by some combustible household appliances such as heaters, fireplaces, and boilers.

Occasionally, carbon monoxide can leak out of these appliances if they are faulty, incorrectly installed, poorly maintained, or do not have adequate ventilation. If this happens, any people or animals occupying the property are at risk of suffering carbon monoxide poisoning.

What is carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when people or animals are exposed to very high levels of carbon monoxide, usually within an unventilated space.

Carbon monoxide is often referred to as the “silent killer” as it is extremely difficult to detect but can cause serious illness and even death.

According to the NHS, around 60 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year in England and Wales.

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when high levels of the gas are breathed in and enter the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, carbon monoxide prevents the blood from carrying oxygen around the body. This can then cause serious damage to the body’s cells and tissue.

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What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may start out quite mild if levels of the gas are low, meaning that they are often overlooked.

Mild symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to that of a hangover, they include:

  • A dull headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

More serious symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include

  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Symptoms may improve when a person is away from the source of the carbon monoxide leak and worsen when they return to the property.

Other signs of a carbon monoxide leak

As well as feeling unwell and other physical symptoms, you may be able to see the tell-tale signs of a carbon monoxide leak by examining your fuel-burning appliances.

Here are 4 signs that your appliances may not be functioning properly and could be leaking dangerous carbon monoxide into your home.

  • Black soot marks or stains on or around the appliance.
  • Yellow flames instead of blue flames.
  • A pilot light that keeps going out.
  • Smoke coming from the appliance.

If you notice any of these signs, you should arrange to have your appliance serviced immediately by a Gas Safe Registered engineer.

What should I do if I think I have carbon monoxide poisoning?

If you believe you may have carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s important to get outside into fresh air as quickly as possible and seek medical care.

For low exposure and mild symptoms, see your GP as soon as possible. If you or someone you know are suffering more serious symptoms, then you should go straight to your nearest A&E department.

The long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning

Serious cases of carbon monoxide poisoning can have devastating, long lasting effects on individuals, including:

  • Brain damage
  • Damage to the heart
  • Miscarriage
  • Death

Whilst carbon monoxide is dangerous to everyone, those more at risk of suffering serious long-term consequences from exposure to the gas are the elderly, babies, pregnant women, and those with existing chronic illnesses.

What causes carbon monoxide to leak from a boiler?

If something goes wrong with your boiler, problems can occur that cause dangerous carbon monoxide to leak out of it.

Problem most commonly occur if a boiler has been incorrectly installed or poorly maintained.

This is why it is so important to ensure that all work carried out on your boiler is performed by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

How to test for carbon monoxide

All properties, both residential and commercial, should have properly installed carbon monoxide alarms.

A carbon monoxide alarm will emit a loud sound when it detects carbon monoxide, alerting you to evacuate the property.

Carbon monoxide alarms can easily be purchased either online or from your local DIY or hardware store. Always check that the alarm you’re buying as been approved to the latest British or European standards.

Make sure that your carbon monoxide alarm is installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions to allow it to operate as effectively as possible. Don’t forget to test your alarm on a regular basis to ensure that it is still in working order.

boiler installed into kitchen

What to do if your carbon monoxide alarm goes off

If your carbon monoxide alarm is triggered, or you have reason to suspect that there may be a carbon monoxide leak, then it’s important to act quickly.

Follow these six simple steps to keep you and your family safe in the event of a carbon monoxide leak.

  • Switch all fuel-burning appliances off.
  • Open all windows and doors to let the carbon monoxide out.
  • Evacuate the property immediately.
  • Seek medical advice.
  • Call the Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999.
  • Have all your fuel-burning appliances serviced.

How can boiler servicing prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

The most important thing you can do to protect you and your family from carbon monoxide is to have your boiler serviced regularly by an expert.

All gas appliances, including your boiler, should be serviced by a Gas Safe Registered engineer on a regular basis to keep them in good condition, ensure that they are operating safely, and reduce the risk of a carbon monoxide leak.

It is recommended that all boilers are safety checked at least once a year.

During a boiler service a Gas Safe engineer will ensure that your boiler is safe by:

  • Checking it is in full working order and primary components are functioning correctly.
  • Checking for leaks and signs of corrosion.
  • Checking that the gas pressure is at a safe level.
  • Cleaning any parts that require it.

Here at Range Heating, we offer annual boiler servicing for any type of boiler for just £60.

For help or advice with your boiler, or to book a boiler service, give our friendly team a call on 07872 105 094.

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