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Early Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Diagnosis is Essential

June 1, 2018 featured image

A new report published by the Gas Safety Trust (GST) and the British Toxicology Society (BTS) has called for the development of new bio-markers to improve standards of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning detection. 

The report suggests:

  • While accidental poisoning by CO is considered relatively rare, it may be more common than we think, as symptoms can easily be mis-diagnosed.
  • The most commonly used biomarker associated with the identification of exposure to CO, carboxyhaemoglobin, is now considered less useful than previously thought and cases of exposure are being missed.
  • There are ‘gaps’ within the current evidence base and knowledge about the impact of low-level, chronic CO exposure was limited.
  • Funding for further research is needed to inform policy around gas safety and prevention of dangerous levels of CO exposure.

What are the dangers of Carbon Monoxide?

CO gas is colourless, tasteless and it does not smell, making it almost impossible for the patient to realise the cause of their symptoms, which can be fatal in some cases.

As it produces common, non-specific symptoms such as headaches and nausea, medical professionals are more likely to suspect more common ailments such as food poisoning or flu before suspecting CO poisoning.

A quick diagnosis is essential to prevent further exposure to the source of the CO.


How can installers help to educate their customers about CO?

Gas installers are the face of the industry when out and about on jobs, carrying out installations, safety checks and talking to consumers.

This is a unique opportunity to spread the word about CO and its symptoms.  Educating your customers about gas safety should be a key part of your professional service

What do consumers need to know about CO poisoning?

Proactive prevention as the first line of defense against CO poisoning – get your gas appliances checked every year by a Gas Safe Registered engineer to make sure they’re working safely and efficiently.  Secondly, a CO alarm is essential to alert you to a potential leak.

Gas Safe Register has some useful resources on its website, including the following information.

Six main symptoms of CO poisoning:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • breathlessness
  • collapse
  • loss of consciousness


These symptoms are misdiagnosed by many as:

  • Concussion (37%)
  • Meningitis (36%)
  • A panic attack (27%)
  • A stroke (22%)
  • Flu (19%).

What should you do if you suspect CO poisoning?

  • Leave the house and get fresh air immediately
  • Open doors and windows
  • Turn off gas appliances
  • Call the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999
  • See your doctor immediately or go to hospital

Signs of CO in the home:

  • Flames of a lazy yellow or orange colour on your gas hob, rather than being a crisp blue;
  • Dark staining on/around appliances;
  • Pilot lights that frequently blow out;
  • Increased condensation inside windows.

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