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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Motorhomes and Caravans

News & Advice

Every year there are around 25 deaths from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales. Motorhome and caravan users are an at-risk group because we use the things that can cause carbon monoxide poisoning in enclosed spaces. As such you should be aware of the basic facts and the things you need to do to protect your family. The following article draws heavily from the NHS website and the useful information provided there.

What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that has no smell or taste. Breathing it in can make you unwell, and it can kill if you're exposed to high levels. After carbon monoxide is breathed in, it enters your bloodstream and mixes with haemoglobin (the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body), to form carboxyhaemoglobin. When this happens, the blood is no longer able to carry oxygen, and this lack of oxygen causes the body’s cells and tissue to fail and die.

The Causes

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood don't burn fully. Burning charcoal, running cars and the smoke from cigarettes also produce carbon monoxide gas. Gas, oil, coal and wood are sources of fuel used in many household appliances, including:

  • boilers
  • gas fires
  • central heating systems
  • water heaters
  • cookers
  • open fires

Incorrectly installed, poorly maintained or poorly ventilated household appliances – such as cookers, heaters and central heating boilers – are the most common causes of accidental exposure to carbon monoxide. The risk of exposure to carbon monoxide may also be higher in motorhomes and caravans.

The Symptoms

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning aren't always obvious, particularly during low-level exposure. A tension-type headache is the most common symptom of mild carbon monoxide poisoning. Other symptoms include:

  • dizziness
  • nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
  • tiredness and confusion
  • stomach pain
  • shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

The symptoms of exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can be similar to those of food poisoning and flu. But unlike flu, carbon monoxide poisoning doesn't cause a high temperature (fever). The symptoms can gradually get worse with prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide.

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  • If you buy a motorhome or caravan, have it checked for carbon monoxide leakage by a qualified engineer before using it.
  • Make sure any new systems or appliances you have installed that might cause carbon monoxide poisoning are installed by a qualified engineer.
  • Have the habitation area of your motorhome or caravan checked and serviced by a qualified engineer on an annual basis.
  • Have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted and serviced by a qualified engineer.

More Information

You can get more information on this important topic at the NHS website here.

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