Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Children's and parenting health centre

Select An Article

Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide gas can't be seen, smelled or tasted, but can kill within minutes.

The risk of carbon monoxide, or CO, comes from faulty gas and fuel-burning fires and appliances in the home and other accommodation, such as on holiday abroad, and from vehicle exhaust fumes in poorly-ventilated spaces.

The NHS says there are around 40 deaths a year in the UK caused by CO poisoning. Over 200 people attend hospital in the UK each year with possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

It is a common for people to expect smoke alarms to detect carbon monoxide, but they don't.

Only specific carbon monoxide alarms give protection against the gas. They take just a few minutes to fit and can cost as little as £15 from DIY stores, supermarkets, shops or from energy companies.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

The initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu, but without fever. They include:

If you have any of these symptoms, especially if you feel better when you go outside your home, but the symptoms reappear once you're back inside - you may have carbon monoxide poisoning.

If carbon monoxide poisoning is known or suspected:

  • Immediately stop using fuel-burning appliances and leave the building (or vehicle) where carbon monoxide may be present and get outside into the fresh air.
  • Keep still and remain calm. This will conserve oxygen in the blood, which is already at a low level because carbon monoxide has partially replaced it.
  • It is important that you get treated right away. Seek urgent medical attention. If necessary, go to your nearest Accident and Emergency department or call 999 for an ambulance. You will need to be tested for carbon monoxide and will probably be given oxygen treatment through a mask.

Tips for preventing carbon monoxide poisoning

Make sure you fit audible carbon monoxide alarms that meet European safety standards and are marked EN50291, BSEN 50291 or EN50291 with the CE symbol.

Alarms should also carry a Kitemark or Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) logo to confirm independent testing and certification.

Having a carbon monoxide alarm should be your second line of defence. It is not an alternative to ensuring your appliances are fitted and regularly serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

Carbon monoxide can also be produced from burning Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), oil, coal, wood and petrol. As well as checking appliances, flues, chimneys or vents need to be properly checked for any blockages.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 22, 2015

Children's health newsletter

Tips to inspire healthy habits
Sign Up

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

woman coughing
Home remedies for coughing
smiling baby
Causes and remedies
man holding sore neck
16 tips when you have a lot of weight to lose
mother and child
Caring for a baby with cows' milk allergy
woman holding mouth
What causes sensitive teeth?
man holding sore neck
8 signs you're headed for menopause
man holding sore neck
The best time to do everything
bain illustration
Best foods for your brain
woman doing situps
7 most effective exercises
avacado on whole wheat crackers
Plenty to choose from
egg in cup
Surprising things that can harm your liver