With the holiday season starting, more and more cost-conscious travellers are opting for a camping holiday. But recent tragic news has highlighted the potentially devastating dangers of what has become known as “the silent killer”, carbon monoxide poisoning. Campers need to be aware that fuel-powered camping equipment can be potentially dangerous to their health, and even fatal.
Being CO aware and taking simple measures could literally save your life.
Here’s how to reduce the risks:
Lanterns, space heaters, portable grills, gas burning appliances, and other fuel-powered equipment should only be lit and burnt outside;
Ensure tents, campers, caravans and any other enclosed areas are adequately ventilated;
When using gas burning units such as the portable stove in your caravan, or gas lanterns in your tent, keep the door or windows open;
Always cook at least two to three metres away from your tent;
Never use or bring a barbecue into a tent. Carbon monoxide will still be released from the hot coals;
When camping at high altitudes, the effects of carbon monoxide are heightened and consequently, more care is required. Also, when alcohol or drugs are ingested the negative effects of CO inhalation are intensified;
Camping in cold weather is especially dangerous for carbon monoxide poisoning because there is a frequent need for heating units and a strong tendency to stay inside due to the weather. Choosing other alternatives like electrical or battery-operated models is highly recommended. Latest figures from the Department for Health suggest 4,000 people a year are poisoned by carbon monoxide, with 200 being admitted to hospital. Last year, 50 people died from the effects of CO poisoning, a huge increase on the four deaths the previous year.
Badly-fitted appliances, which use gas or other household fuels such as coal and wood, along with faulty boilers, flues or poorly ventilated ovens are often to blame. Worryingly, CO can also enter a property from adjoining households. But the workplace can also pose a hazard and the spate of camping incidents in recent years shows the potentially fatal risk of CO poisoning from taking barbecues into tents.
Nick Rutter, managing director of Sprue Safety Products, the UK’s leading manufacturer and supplier of CO alarms, said: “Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous, potentially fatal gas produced from fuel-powered camping equipment – including barbecues. With no colour, taste or smell, it is totally invisible to the human senses. Because the gas is so difficult to detect and the symptoms (such as headaches) so common to other complaints, many people can be poisoned without knowing it. The actual number of people affected is thought to be much higher.
“Carbon monoxide is potentially fatal, but exposure to low levels of the gas over just a few hours can be just as lethal as high levels over a short amount of time, causing lasting damage to your health,” added Nick. Warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to flu. They can include nausea, dizziness, tiredness, headaches, stomach pains and chest pains. If you experience these symptoms, but feel better when you are outside or away from the appliance, you could be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
More severe symptoms are respiratory problems and brain damage leading potentially to death. If you are concerned about the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning whilst on holiday in the UK or abroad, you can take a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm with you. When you buy a carbon monoxide alarm, make sure it meets current British and European safety standards. Look for alarms marked with the name of the European Standard ‘BSEN 50291:2001’ and with the ‘CE’ mark, which should be found on the packaging.