Warning that carbon monoxide can be a hidden killer during summer

carbon monoxide summer

As many people prepare to head away on holiday, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is raising awareness that carbon monoxide (CO) can be a hidden killer during the summer months.

“Carbon monoxide can build up very quickly in enclosed spaces to levels that can kill,” warned Hilary Johnston, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager at the PHA.

“Carbon monoxide is usually associated with domestic fossil fuel-burning appliances and incidents and even deaths can also occur in caravans and on boats.”

Faulty gas cookers, appliances or petrol-powered generators have led to carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide has also been linked to deaths where people have brought gas and charcoal barbecues into tents and other small enclosed spaces, sometimes in an attempt to keep warm.

“It is vital that people are aware of the ways to reduce risk and also of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning,” said Hilary.  

“Due to the fact that carbon monoxide is a colourless, tasteless and odourless gas that is non-irritating, it can be very hard to detect.

“The signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often mistaken for other illnesses, such as food poisoning or flu.

“Anyone who suspects they have carbon monoxide poisoning should immediately go outside into the fresh air and seek urgent medical attention.”

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • headaches;
  • dizziness;
  • breathlessness;
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • exhaustion;
  • drowsiness;
  • light-headedness;
  • collapse and loss of consciousness.


Follow these safety steps to reduce your risk:

  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm in your caravan, holiday home or boat and test them regularly. These alarms have a limited life span, so if you've had them for a while, please check to see if they are working properly – it might be time to buy new ones.
  • Never take a barbecue into an enclosed space.
  • Never use a fuel-burning appliance to heat your tent, awning, caravan or boat. (Gas and kerosene heaters – unless they are permanently fitted in a caravan or motorhome – should only be used outside).
  • Never run a gas, petrol or diesel-powered generator inside.
  • Don’t cook inside your tent or awning.
  • Don’t use any other gas, charcoal, liquid or solid fuel appliances inside a tent or awning. Gas-powered fridges and lamps, for example, also need plenty of ventilation to prevent them producing poisonous carbon monoxide. Tents and awnings are not generally designed with this in mind.
  • Have gas appliances in your caravan or boat serviced regularly.


If you have any doubts about the safety of your gas appliances, contact your local Gas Safe Registered engineer and request a full gas safety check.

For more information visit www.pha.site/CarbonMonoxidesafety