Carbon monoxide poisoning: How to stay safe on holiday

Holidaymakers have been warned of the danger of carbon monoxide. Credit: Reuters

Since a jury ruled that Thomas Cook had breached its duty of care in connection with the deaths of Bobby and Christi Shepherd, the issue of holiday safety and carbon monoxide poisoning has been brought back into focus.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) say incidents like this are "extremely rare", but campaigners have warned holidaymakers to be alert to the danger posed by carbon monoxide.

What is carbon monoxide poisoning?

Known as the "silent killer", carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that has no taste, smell or colour.

It is produced when fuels such as gas, oil or coal do not burn properly.

When carbon monoxide enters the body, it stops blood from carrying oxygen to cells, tissues and organs.

What causes it?

Causes of high exposure to carbon monoxide can include:

  • Faulty or incorrectly installed household appliances such as boilers, gas fires and cookers

  • Blocked flues and chimneys

  • Burning fuel in an enclosed space

What are the symptoms?

Carbon monoxide poisoning produces flu-like symptoms (without the high temperature) and can prove fatal:

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Tiredness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Stomach pain

Who is responsible for the safety of holiday accommodation?

Thomas Cook has been criticised for its handling of the deaths of two British children. Credit: PA Wire
  • A 1992 EU Directive makes UK package holiday firms responsible for the accommodation they provide and services they use abroad

  • The legal test is that "local standards" of health and safety are met in each resort

  • Under existing rules, there is no requirement for tour operators to conduct their own health and safety inspections

However, since July 2014 potential new measures have been discussed that could see compulsory carbon monoxide alarms and independent safety inspections introduced.

But this is still ongoing and there is no timetable for the introduction of EU rules.

What can I do to stay safe on holiday?

A carbon monoxide alarm. Credit: Nordelch/Creative Commons
  • Check your travel company's credentials and reputation - is it a member of ABTA?

  • Make yourself aware of the symptoms

  • Don't block the ventilation in the room

  • Pack an audible carbon monoxide alarm, which can be purchased for around £20 from most homeware stores

  • Campaign group CO-Gas Safety say people should use a "common sense approach" when inspecting their holiday property, advising holidaymakers that "if something looks out of place, it probably is - complain!"

What to do if you suspect a leak?

  • Stop using all appliances that use fuel

  • Open the windows of the property

  • Move away from the potential source

  • Seek medical assistance

If you have any concerns or questions, get in touch with your package provider or make a complaint via ABTA, if your provider is a member.