Smorgasbord Health Column – Something to Think About – Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Statistics by Sally Cronin

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Statistics by Sally Cronin

Each year thousands of people are treated for carbon monoxide poisoning and hundreds die. With a strategically placed, inexpensive carbon monoxide detector, those lives would have been saved.

According to Corg:

  • Four people are treated for carbon monoxide poisoning in English hospitals every day
  • Of the 1,798 people who attended A&E departments with suspected CO poisoning, 1,563 (87 per cent) required treatment, with more than one in five (367) requiring hospitalisation
  • Of those who received treatment, 360 were children, 192 were aged over 60 and 174 were aged 18-25 year olds

And in the USA

Each year, approximately 20,000 people in the United States visit the emergency room because of carbon monoxide poisoning. While many of those people are treated and released, on average, 400 people will die from carbon monoxide poisoning in a given year.

Why is this gas so dangerous?

Carbon monoxide is odorless and tasteless, which means it’s difficult to detect a leak until a person becomes sick. And even then, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic those of the flu, making it difficult to identify.

My experience of carbon monoxide poisoning that could have been fatal.

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 10.pm, 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 sun-room 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 sun-room 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.

This post also has recall notices for certain makes of detector that have proven to have faults and it is worth double checking your own monitor in case it is one of these and replace. http://www.carbonmonoxide.ie/htm/co_alarms.htm

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 Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

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: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

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22 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – Something to Think About – Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Statistics by Sally Cronin

  1. What a horrible experience for you,Sally. A least you, thankfully, survived! We have, mainly, electrical appliances: boiler, cooker, two marble radiators and wall heaters, but you know how cold it can get, even in Spanish winters….so we bought a wood burner However, that became a no-no for a few reasons and we bought a gas heater, so your article is well-timed! Hugs xx.

    Liked by 1 person

      • The button code must have become corrupted somehow, Sally – I use my FB button to manually upload my posts to my FB Timeline (WP Publicize automatically uploads them to my FB Promotion of Authors Page), but not had any Blocked messages yet (fingers crossed) ❤️❤️❤️

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think it was the button Chris as I was getting blocked and all my posts were apparently not acceptable to their community standards. I did try to delete my account but they kept reactivating it. I gave it six weeks and I am just taking it easy, using the odd shortcode on posts to share once in a while and share internally on FB which seems to be okay. Once I am sure that people won’t get blocked and possibly implicated by sharing directly then I will enable the button again. I know that I was not the only one and there is talk of FB working a new angle by preventing posts with URLs taking people away from the site.. but who knows.. I will give it a little while… thanks for your help ♥♥

        Liked by 1 person

      • A few weeks ago, I had to request FB to reassess over 100 posts on both my pages – they were all reinstated – over last weekend, I had to request Tumblr to reassess 7 posts – all have been reinstated 😱

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you realized what was happening before it was too late! There are more cases of this every year- I wonder if it could be because of heating costs? Houses are built more and more airtight with a goal toward saving energy, but it also creates an issue with gas buildup. And older homes have problems with aging furnaces which can develop cracks or blockages.
    Carbon monoxide detectors are important, but the government needs to step in and create better alternatives for heat. Rebates for solar panels would be a start.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree Jacquie and also more regulations about building extensions onto existing areas that require ventilation such as my mother’s sunroom onto the kitchen. It was a huge trend when the property market was flat and people didn’t move but extended. Trouble is in our northern climates there is not enough sun to justify solar panels..we looked at it for this house but it would take about ten years to pay for itself even with grants. xxxx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Weekly Round Up – Bloggers, Authors, Music, Health, Food and Funnies. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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