On 1 June, with the summer holiday season in mind, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) issued a warning to the public against using, lighting or leaving smouldering barbecues inside tents, caravans or other enclosed spaces because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
At high levels, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can cause sudden collapse, loss of consciousness and death. Other symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, chest pains, nausea and vomiting. It is known that wood or fossil fuels that burn without enough oxygen create CO. Following recent reports of deaths on campsites, which are thought likely to have been the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, the HPA is concerned that campers may not recognise the risk of CO poisoning from lit or smouldering barbecues, and that these should never be taken inside tents, tent awnings or other enclosed spaces.
A recent study estimated that around 4,000 people attend accident and emergency departments in England each year because of carbon monoxide poisoning. Although most of these were not sick enough to be admitted to hospital, it is known that long term exposure is associated with neurological effects - such as difficulties in concentration.
Anyone who suspects they are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning while inside a tent or other enclosed area should go outside and seek medical help from a qualified healthcare professional or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 (in Scotland, NHS24 on 08454 242424). [Source: HPA Press Release, 1 June 2012. http://www.hpa.org.uk/NewsCentre/NationalPressReleases/2012PressReleases/]
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