SA Health issues carbon monoxide poisoning warning after increase in ED presentations
A SPIKE in the number of South Australians taken to emergency departments from carbon monoxide-related poisoning in the past year has prompted authorities to issue a health warning as temperatures drop.
A total of 24 people were taken to EDs during 2017-18 from carbon monoxide poisoning, a 60 per cent increase on the previous year.
In 2016-17, there were a total of 15 admissions and in 2015-16, 29 people were admitted to SA hospitals.
Any appliance that uses gas, oil, kerosene or wood — such as gas or wood heaters — can produce carbon monoxide.
SA Health acting director of public health services Dr Chris Lease said carbon monoxide was a “silent killer” because it has “no smell, taste or colour”.
“You can die from inhalation before you are even aware of it,” he said.
Dr Lease said blocked chimneys and flue pipes increased the chance of carbon monoxide being produced.
“The gas can build up in unventilated rooms and people can inhale it without realising, so it is important to make sure that there is adequate ventilation with fresh air,” he said.
Symptoms include shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, vomiting and loss of consciousness.
“Babies and young children, pregnant women, the elderly and immobile and those with respiratory problems are most vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning,” Dr Lease said.
MFS commander community safety and resilience Greg Howard said people purchasing and installing gas appliances in their homes should use a qualified tradesperson and the appliance should only be used in rooms with adequate ventilation.
“It is important to never use heaters or appliances marked as ‘outdoor use only’ for heating inside or in any fully enclosed area that doesn’t have adequate ventilation,” he said.
SA Health urges anyone who experiences symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning to seek medical attention immediately.