Carbon monoxide awareness

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas attributing to over 60 deaths per year in England and Wales. It has no smell or taste and can kill if exposed to high levels.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil, wood and coal. Carbon-based fuels are safe to use. It is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess CO is produced, which is poisonous. When CO enters the body, it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

A headache is the most common symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Dizziness and nausea (feeling sick)
  • Vomiting (being sick)
  • Tiredness and confusion
  • Stomach pain
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

What to do if you have been poisoned

If you believe you have been poisoned you should preferably seek medical attention at A&E. Inform medical staff you suspect you have been poisoned by CO and give all the information that you possibly can that makes you think this.

You should request an immediate blood test - you may have been poisoned but a delayed analysis could show a false negative.

Carbon Monoxide risks when camping

PHE Scientist Isabella Myers explains the dangers of carbon monoxide from barbecues in enclosed spaces such as tents, awnings and caravans.