Carbon monoxide dangers if camping, caravanning or boating

Date published: 25 July 2019

Everyone is reminded about the potential dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning away from the home. It's important to be aware of the risks when on holiday or a weekend break if you're staying in a tent, caravan or in a boat cabin.

Enclosed spaces

While carbon monoxide is usually associated with domestic fossil fuel-burning appliances, incidents and deaths can also happen in caravans and on board 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.

When camping, caravanning or boating, despite being out in the fresh air, carbon monoxide can build up to levels that can kill very quickly in enclosed spaces, such as tents and awnings.

It is essential that people take care when using barbecues and ensure that they are safe and used in properly-ventilated spaces.

Advice when using a barbecue

Follow this advice when using a barbecue, whether it’s a disposable one, gas or charcoal:

  • read the manufacturer’s instructions
  • never take a smouldering or lit barbecue into a tent, caravan or cabin - even if you have finished cooking
  • never use a barbecue inside to keep you warm
  • never leave a lit barbecue unattended or while sleeping
  • dispose of it safely, ensuring all fire and ashes are completely extinguished

If you’re using gas camping equipment, follow these extra tips to help you stay safe:

  • read the manufacturer’s instructions
  • never take a gas stove, light or heater into a tent, caravan or cabin unless it's a permanent fixture, installed and maintained correctly
  • check that the appliance is in good order, undamaged and that hoses are properly attached and undamaged - if in doubt, get the hoses replaced or don’t use it

You can get further advice on the pages below:

As an added back-up precaution, you should also install an audible carbon monoxide alarm in your caravan, holiday home or boat. These alarms have a limited life span, so if you've had one for a while, please check to see if they are working properly – it might be time to buy a new one.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, tasteless, odourless gas that is non-irritating, and as a result 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. Symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • breathlessness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • exhaustion
  • drowsiness
  • lightheadedness
  • collapse and loss of consciousness

Anyone who suspects they are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning should immediately go outside into the fresh air and seek urgent medical attention.

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