Carbon monoxide poisonings prompts urgent warning as cold nights continue

It might be cold out there at the moment – especially at nights – but don’t be tempted to use outdoor heaters and barbeques indoors warns the NSW Poisons Information Centre (NSWPIC) following the hospitalisation of six people this week from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

The most recent incident is one of more than 70 calls to the NSWPIC this year relating to carbon monoxide exposures. Of these, 58 calls resulted in those affected being hospitalised for assessment and treatment.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas which is highly toxic. It is produced when any fuel is burnt in an enclosed space.

Medical Director of NSWPIC, Dr Darren Roberts, said health authorities have seen entire families exposed to the chemical.

“It is a major concern because you can’t see, smell or taste the gas. The early symptoms for carbon monoxide poisoning are also non-specific, which is why it can be so dangerous,” Dr Roberts said.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include headache, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Prolonged exposures can cause loss of consciousness, seizures, and in some instances, permanent brain damage or death.

A significant proportion of carbon monoxide exposure occur when burning apparatuses, such as barbeques, charcoal briquettes and coal burners, are used inside at night for heat during winter.

“It may seem like a simple and practical solution when you are feeling cold, but unfortunately it can have serious consequences including death,” Dr Roberts said.

“To protect your family, it is vital to never burn barbeque coals indoors or in enclosed spaces. Barbeques and outdoor heaters should only be used outside, in a well-ventilated area.”

 For advice on any suspected or confirmed carbon monoxide poisoning, call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

In an emergency, dial triple zero (000) for an ambulance and seek medical help.

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