Recognise the Symptoms of CO Poisoning

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can easily be mistaken for the other illnesses such as the flu, food poisoning or a viral infection. Prolonged exposure to CO can lead to these symptoms gradually getting worse and higher levels of carbon monoxide can cause more severe symptoms.

The Main Symptoms to Look For

Being able to recognise the main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning could save lives and ensure that carbon monoxide poisoning isn't mistaken for something else. It is important to remember that your symptoms will be less severe when you are away from the source of carbon monoxide and to check if others, including pets, are experiencing similar symptoms.

The main symptoms to look out for include:

Persistent Headaches

Having persistent dull headaches and tension type headaches.


Having waves of dizziness or feeling light headed and off balance.

Nausea / Vomiting

Feeling like you need to be sick (nausea) and actually being sick (vomiting).

Stomach Pains

Pains in your stomach or lower abdomen, sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea.

Difficulty Breathing

Sudden shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (dyspnoea).


Having no energy or feeling tired, sleepy, lethargic and sluggish.

Sudden Collapse

Sudden collapse, seizures or loss of consciousness.


Confusion, difficulty concentrating and becoming easily irritated.


Treating Carbon Monoxide poisoning

If you think you or someone else is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning you should seek medical advice ASAP. Your symptoms will often indicate if you have carbon monoxide poisoning but a blood test will confirm the amount of carboxyhaemoglobin in your blood. You will also need to make sure the area where you were exposed to carbon monoxide can be made safe before you or anyone else returns.

If your level of carboxyhaemoglobin is above 30% this would indicate severe carbon monoxide exposure and you will require medical treatment.

Oxygen Therapy

Standard oxygen therapy can be given to patients that have been exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide. 100% oxygen will be supplied through a tight-fitting mask. Inhaling concentrated oxygen allows the body to quickly replace the carboxyhaemoglobin.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) floods the body with pure oxygen and may be offered as a treatment in some cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. It is usually recommended in cases where there has been extensive exposure and nerve damage is suspected.


(doc:544 V1.0). Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. Please note that we provide abridged, easy-to-understand guidance. To make detailed decisions about your fire safety provisions, you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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.


Estimated Number of Deaths Every Year

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.

Source: ONS, User Requested Data, Refs 006780, 007476 & 009122


People Treated for CO Poisoning Every Year

Figures from the Department of Health and Social Care 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.

Source: Department for Health and Social Care


Number of People Hospitalised Every Year

According to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England, around 200 per year are hospitalised in England and Wales as a result of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Source: Department for Health and Social Care


Percentage of UK Households with a CO Alarm

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

Share Your CO Story

We share real-life stories of our customers to help raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide. Hearing about a near miss can sometimes prompt you to think about your own situation and may highlight a risk within your own home.

If you share your CO story with us, and it is posted on our website, we will give you a free carbon monoxide alarm. Help us spread the word and save lives.


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