The symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are very similar to flu and it is believed that when patients present at accident and emergency departments with symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and chest pain, that the diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning often goes undetected, meaning that patients are then discharged back into an environment that is a potential risk to their life.
The Gas Safety Trust, a charity set up in 2005 to provide funding into research and data collection connected to carbon monoxide exposure, has announced that it will be funding an extensive piece of research at an accident and emergency department at Frimley Park Hospital, Surrey. This research will hopefully give a clearer picture of the extent that UK residents are exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide and will enable health professionals to accurately diagnose CO poisoning.
Many people are subjected to low levels of CO over a prolonged period due to unmaintained appliances that burn carbon fuels, such as gas, wood and coal, or through a blocked chimney for example. If you suffer from flu like symptoms that improve when you are not at home you should check to see if there is any CO present in your home. You can do this by using a CO detector, which is cheap and easy to use. If the detector shows high levels of CO open windows and leave the building. Contact a gas engineer and get your appliances checked out.
Many people are unaware of the devastating effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon Monoxide has no colour, smell or taste and cannot be detected by the human senses. It is extremely dangerous, binding itself to the haemoglobin in red blood cells and preventing them from transporting oxygen around the body.
According to statistics released by the Office for National Statistics, throughout England and Wales there are an average of over 60 deaths every year due to accidental exposure to carbon monoxide - up to 45% of which occur in the home.
Figure from the Department of Health show that there are around 4000 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning treated in A&E Departments across England each year - even mild cases can exacerbate existing conditions such as respiratory illnesses, leading to fatalities.
A study of more than 27,000 properties by the Liverpool John Moores University, supported by the Merseyside and West Midlands Fire Services, found that less than 10% of homes have a single carbon monoxide alarm to protect occupants from this deadly gas.
Source: Liverpool John Moores University