Updated on 9th December, 2022 by Martin Astley
If your boiler breaks down, if your gas appliances have not been serviced and maintained properly, or if you were the victim of a rogue gas fitter, then you will be at an increased risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
CO is a very dangerous gas; early signs of CO poisoning include fatigue, headaches, and flu-like symptoms, but as the condition progresses, it can lead to vomiting, unconsciousness, brain damage, and ultimately death.
You might think that the biggest risk a gas appliance poses is a fire or explosion, but CO poisoning is perhaps an even larger danger. The gas, which is created through incomplete combustion, should escape through flues and vents, but if it cannot do so, it can build to dangerous levels within the home.
It is odourless, colorless, and tasteless, and people who are exposed to CO therefore frequently do not realise anything is wrong or that they are breathing in poison until they succumb to the fumes.
If you suspect that someone has carbon monoxide poisoning, you may be able to save their life. Keep calm, keep a cool head, and follow these instructions.
Signs of Carbon Monoxide poisoning
Indications of CO poisoning include:
- Vomiting and nausea
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Acting in a drunk, confused or overly tired manner
- Abnormal skin tone, including overly-pale skin, blue tinges or bright pink skin
Responding to CO poisoning
Call the emergency services
There are a number of things you can do to minimise the injuries someone with carbon monoxide poisoning will sustain, but what they really need is emergency assistance as quickly as possible. If possible, and if you can do so without delaying the call, get someone else to call 999 while you take care of the victim.
Analyse the scene
If the room the victim is in is full of visible smoke, then you should not enter and will have to wait until the emergency services arrive.
If the room does not appear to be full of smoke, then ventilate it properly before you enter. Open doors and windows to allow fresh air into the room and to disperse some of the deadly gas.
Remove the victim
If the victim is still awake and responsive, then help them escape from the scene. If they are unconscious, remove them from the room by lifting them or dragging them out.
Take them out into the fresh air so their body can replace the CO with oxygen. Doing so will minimise any neurological complications that may arise, or may even prevent any brain death from occurring at all.
Monitor the victim
If the victim is conscious, then monitor their breathing and heart rate until the emergency services arrive. If they are unconscious but are still breathing, then put them in the recovery position and monitor their breathing and heart rate.
If they are unconscious and do not appear to be breathing properly, you may have to perform chest compressions – mouth-to-mouth resuscitation could expose you to the carbon monoxide.
Put your thumbs in the middle of the chest and press down at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions every minute, and continue doing so until the victim begins breathing again or until the ambulance service arrives. If you are unsure of how to perform chest compressions, the emergency services phone operator should be able to guide you through it.
Having trouble with your boiler?
Don’t attempt to touch any part of your boiler or central heating system if you’re unsure. Did you know? It’s illegal for anyone to use a gas appliance if they think it’s unsafe. It’s always better to be safe than sorry as you could make things worse.
Instead, call us on 0345 3192 247 and we can help. Our technical team will run through some simple troubleshooting to see if your problem can be resolved on the phone or they can book one of our friendly and knowledgeable Gas Safe registered engineers to get you back up and running as soon as possible.
247 Home Rescue accepts no liability for any injuries or damages you sustain following the advice on this website. If in doubt, seek professional assistance.