Q: We’ve a smoke detector at home but I’ve read you should have a carbon monoxide detector too. Can you explain why?
A: Every year in England and Wales, about 50 people die of CO poisoning, and 200 are admitted to hospital with serious injuries. About 4,000 people are diagnosed with low level CO poisoning, but true numbers are probably much higher, according to Baroness Finlay, who chaired a recent review into Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (policyconnect.org.uk/appgsg).
CO is produced when fuels don’t burn properly. Gas, oil, coal and wood are potential sources of CO. In the home, it’s usually caused by incorrectly fitted or maintained appliances and flues, or poor ventilation.
Disposable charcoal ‘barbies’ in tents have caused campers’ deaths. Ovens used to heat homes are a risk because they don’t have flues.
CO is colourless, odourless and tasteless and can kill without warning. The victim becomes sleepy, comatose and dies, often quickly, from oxygen starvation. CO may also poison cells.
People who survive CO poisoning often have brain damage and cognitive impairment. This can mimic the symptoms of a stroke or some types of dementia.
CO can build up slowly. Long term, low level exposure can cause symptoms including headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, stomach aches and pains. These are often misdiagnosed as due to flu, asthma, food poisoning, angina, myalgia, depression, or chronic fatigue.
If symptoms only occur at home, disappear when you leave and return when you do, and affect others at home including pets, suspect CO poisoning and get fresh air immediately. See your GP or go to hospital.
Every home should have a CO detector, available nationwide. The Fire Angel Carbon Monoxide Alarm, £24.99, is portable so can go away with you. From Victoria Health.
All fuel-burning appliances should be checked, serviced and certified annually by registered professionals for your fuel type. For gas, find a Gas Safe Registered Engineer, via gassaferegister.co.uk Never let an untrained person install or maintain any fuel-burning appliance.
Landlords have a duty to provide a Safety Certificate. But these only shows appliances have been visually checked in the last year, not serviced. Responsible landlords should provide proof of annual service.
Also check for soot or staining round an appliance, and excessive condensation in the room. Pilot lights of gas boilers should be blue with a crisp outline, not yellow/orange and ‘lazy-looking’. Chimneys should be regularly swept. For more information, becarbonmonoxideaware.com
Say cheers, but don’t overdo THE FESTIVE SPIRITS
Don’t drink your calories! As the party season gets into full swing, it’s tempting to knock back alcoholic drinks. But not only does that lead to the obvious risks, it can also pile on the pounds.
Wine, beer, cider and spirits are made by fermenting and distilling natural starch and sugar. That means alcohol contains lots of calories, seven calories a gram, according to the charity Drinkaware, which is actually funded by the drinks industry. Actually, it’s a double disaster dietwise. Because your body recognises that alcohol has no nutritional value, it prioritises getting rid of those ‘empty’ calories. So drinking alcohol also reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy.
We don’t want to spoil your fun but if you want to fit into that slinky LBD, it might be worth cutting down on the ‘empty’ calories in alcoholic drinks. Try white wine spritzers or champagne with orange or peach juice. Rotate them with more nutritious, non-alcoholic options such as tomato juice (we love Virgin Mary’s), watermelon whizzed up with lime, mint and crushed ice, black or white grape juice, elderflower cordial or apple (or other) juice with sparkling water. Or splash out on Feel Good Drinks Christmas Cocktails, £2.49 for 750ml bottle from Sainsburys.
Get Up and Pogo
Pogo sticks have come a long way since the 1970s. The Razor Bogo Pogo, with a super-bouncy spring (so wear a helmet), is a great present for kids and teens, and lightweight adults too (under 63kg/10 stone). After putting the pogo through its paces in Kensington Gardens, our YOU testers reported that it trained balance and coordination, toned the thighs and induced a heart-thumping cardiovascular workout (providing you could stay on!). Trying to beat your friends’ bounce count is a great incentive to get back on.
Razor Bogo Pogo from age 6+ £79.99 from amazon.co.uk.
Dig Those Heels!
Here’s the cleverest notion: Blingbacks are ‘shoe jewellery’ that not only make the plainest pair of shoes into Louboutins, but has an almost invisible, soft silicone lip that prevents them rubbing your heels or slipping off. I tried out Ellipse (above) recently and basked in the compliments. They come in a pretty box too, so that’s my girlfriends sorted! From £12 from debenhams.com, and asos.com