Smorgasbord Health Column – Carbon Monoxide – A Silent Killer by Sally Cronin

I thought it was worth repeating this post on Carbon Monoxide dangers in light of the recent reports from the luxury hotel in Egypt that it may have been the cause behind the deaths of two tourists. And resulted in the evactuation of 300 British tourists. The final cause of their deaths is likely to take some time to be revealed, but whilst you cannot control the enviroment when staying in public buildings, you can take precautions to protect yourself and your family from this silent killer.  Unexplained deaths in luxury hotel – Daily Mail

In 2009 I was living with my mother full time and whilst I would spend time with her during the day for the odd hour of two when she was awake, I would spend most of my time in the kitchen diner working on my laptop and within earshot if there was a problem.

We had settled into a routine and most days followed the same pattern. Suddenly I began to experience mild headaches on a regular basis. I put it down to stress and would go out for a walk along the seafront and the headache would subside. Then we hit a spell of very wet weather, and I was confined to the house unless I was out doing the shopping or doing my radio shows.

The headaches got worse and after about four weeks I was in constant pain despite taking painkillers. I went to the walk-in medical centre and they said it was probably a migraine and related to stress. They suggested that I take ibruprofen and try to relax!

I then went to a chiropractor, to find out if perhaps I had somehow pinched a nerve in my neck that was causing the problem. He did some work on my neck and shoulders but could not find any knots. There was no improvement after the session and I was becoming desperate.

I was also becoming very tired as sleeping was virtually impossible and eventually one night about, I felt my head was about to explode. The pain was excrutiating, and finally I telephoned my sister to come around and she called an ambulance. When the paramedics arrived they took my blood pressure and it was through the roof. and combined with head pain, they rushed me to hospital as they thought I was about to have a stroke.

When I arrived at A&E the doctor examined me and immediately put me on very strong painkillers and because my saturation levels were low he also gave me oxygen. As the meds and oxygen took effect my blood pressure dropped and after a few hours it was down to a bearable level. He too thought it might be migraines or cluster headaches or an underlying condition and told me to go to a doctor to be referred for further investigation.

I went home at about 5am and slept through to lunchtime. I sat in the lounge with my mother and had an early night still with the niggling pain hovering in my head.

The next day I was sitting in the dining area of the kitchen when the pain began again and Iooked over at my mother’s gas cooker and suddenly the penny dropped.

As it was an emergency, the gas board sent a technician immediately and he found that there were low to moderate concentrations of carbon monoxide in the kitchen and dining-room. A place that I used for several hours a day, but my mother rarely entered anymore. I used to close the door to the hall to shut out the noise of her television so effectively sealing me in with the gas.

Additionally, the previous owners of the house had built a sunroom across the back of the kitchen which meant there were no windows to the outside and therefore little ventilation. With the onset of winter the windows of the sunroom were not opened either allowing a build up of carbon monoxide.

My mother’s gas oven was also an older model she had brought from her flat across the road, and although it had been serviced since her arrival at the house, it had not been checked for a number of years.It was the first thing to go. The gas board capped off the gas line and I bought an electric cooker.

It took several weeks before I felt normal, and after I investigated the often fatal effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, I was very thankful that I had identified the cause when I did and did not suffer long term health problems.

More about Carbon Monoxide.

  • The build up of carbon monoxide in the home is particularly dangerous for those who tend to be at home all day or housebound. This is particularly so for the elderly who might also not been able to afford proper maintenance for their aging appliances.
  • Carbon monoxide can accumulate to dangerous levels as a result of faulty or damaged heating appliances using gas, oil, kerosene or wood that have not been serviced regularly.
  • Poor ventilation in rooms where you have gas appliances for cooking or heating. Especially after home renovations that block internal windows. This is often the case with conservatories that are added to the back of houses.
  • Blocked flues and chimneys of heating appliances.
  • Garage or shed doors being shut when cars or petrol driven lawnmowers are operating without ventilation.
  • Sitting in idling cars in a garage even with the doors open.
  • Using cooking appliances with the doors open to the rest of the house as a form of heating. (As in the case of some elderly people without central heating in their homes)
  • Using cooking appliances such as BBQs inside the house or garage.
  • Because carbon monoxide is invisible, you cannot smell or taste it, over time it can build to dangerous levels.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

  • At the outset you may feel that you are coming down with a cold or the flu. This will usually include a headache that persists.
  • You might also experience chest pains, dizziness, stomach upset, vomiting and general fatigue.
  • Another key indicator is that other people that you live and work with are experiencing similar symptoms.
  • The effects are dependent on a number of factors. The age of the person, activity levels outside the home, daily rate of exposure and poor health.
  • More severe effects may result in confusion, seizures and unconsciousness

What causes carbon monoxide poisoning?

When you breathe in carbon monoxide it replaces the oxygen in your blood. This means that your cells throughout your body die and your organs fail.

Urgent steps to take.

  • If you have any appliances that burn fuel for heating or cooking then make sure they are switched off until you have had them checked by a qualified inspector.
  • Open all your windows and air the house.. Pockets of gas can find their way throughout the house if doors have been left open.
  • If your symptoms are severe get outside into the fresh air. Get checked out as quickly as possible either at your doctor or the emergency room.
  • Installing a carbon monoxide alarm could save your life.
  • Regular inspection and maintenance of appliances, vents, flues and chimneys are the best ways to protect you and your family from the hidden danger of carbon monoxide. For added protection install an audible carbon monoxide alarm.
  • Carbon Monoxide alarms are available from many hardware and DIY stores.

Here is an article with a video that gives instructions on where to place detectors and also points to remember such as the fact that detectors have a relatively short lifespan and need to be replaced regularly.

If your fuel burning appliances have not been checked recently or you do not have a carbon monoxide detector then please do so now.. I would hate for you to go through the same experience as I did. Thanks Sally

©Sally Cronin 2016

You can find all the 2018 health related posts in this directory:

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here:


33 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – Carbon Monoxide – A Silent Killer by Sally Cronin

  1. Very apt as we were just talking about this last night – visitors relating the story of someone who didn’t realise their wood burning stove was supposed to have glass in the door! But our own story years ago makes me shudder; we had moved into a ‘new’ (1930’s ) house just before our third baby arrived. Our five year old kept saying he felt funny and I thought it was due to the new baby. When we had the gas fire and back boiler checked they immediately put a red sticker on it, fumes were going up into the back bedroom. What amazes me is the previous people had lived there for 25 years without noticing anything was wrong? The electrics in the extension are another story… the moral of the tale is have a full property inspection done, not just the one the building society wants and have all appliances checked straight away when you move in!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent advice Janet and thankfully you picked up on it in time. Also with the expense of having certified electricians and plumbers to install boilers etc and the ongoing costs of servicing and repairs, people are turning to cowboys and those not qualified which also leads to serious problems. There are some things you should never skimp on and gas and electrical appliances are definitely at the top of the list. hugs..

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve read several times in the past year about this happening in public places where people stay the night. I’m wondering if carbon monoxide alarms can be taken along with travelers to make sure they’re safe, or do these alarms actually need to be ‘installed?’

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Holy smokes Sal, what a scary story. Amazing you’re still here! I’m not sure about the laws there, but those detectors are mandatory here.
    I have to experiences with that gas in my house. Thankfully, they weren’t fatal, in fact, they are actually amusing. I’ve just made a note to write about them and when I do, I’m going to attach this post as a reblog so people can learn the importance of being diligent about this gas. ❤ xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How scary and it still happens..electric all the way methinks although there is no piped gas here only calor gas bottles or I dread to think what would happen with the Health and Safety as it is here 🙂 Hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. A very silent killer. We use carbon monoxide alarms because of our bombonas of gas and our wood fire but also because I rent rooms there are alarms there too! Perhaps people have to take them on holiday. Very sad but we seem to trust too much in health and safety when we still need to check.

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. Wow, Sally, that must have been terrifying for you. I’m so pleased you found the cause and are now okay. I’m also pleased that I have no fuel-powered appliances in my home. I’d not heard of a carbon monoxide monitor before.


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