Posted on January 28, 2018

With temperatures expected to drop even further this week, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is raising awareness of the dangers of burning wood or charcoal indoors or in an enclosed space because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from the gas that is released when these are burnt.

Carbon monoxide is a very poisonous gas which is particularly dangerous as it cannot be seen or smelt. This means that people who are exposed to it may not be aware of its presence. Even small quantities of the gas can be extremely deadly particularly when this gas is released in a small space without proper ventilation. One of the leading causes of carbon monoxide related poisoning and death is the burning of wood or charcoal inside the home. Lack of proper ventilation results in the concentration of gas getting higher and higher until the level is so great that people inside the room or house where the gas is present breathe it in and suffocate – leading to brain damage and death.

Dr. Dominic Jenkins, Senior Consultant in Emergency Medicine and Deputy Chair for Clinical Affairs at HMC, warns residents of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and the particular danger of burning wood and charcoal indoors. He said: “When charcoal burns, it releases carbon monoxide gas. This has no taste or smell but it can be lethal as it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain and other organs of oxygen. Large amounts of this gas can make a person lose consciousness in minutes without warning—causing suffocation and sometimes death.

Dr. Jenkins added: "Mild carbon monoxide poisoning may feel like food poisoning or the flu, although unlike the flu, it doesn't cause a high temperature (fever). Symptoms can include headache, fatigue, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting. More severe cases of poisoning may cause muscle cramps and fainting and loss of consciousness due to the poor delivery of oxygen to the heart and the brain. The effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are particularly dangerous for children, pregnant women, people with chronic heart diseases, respiratory problems or anemia."

Dr. Jenkins warned that residents should never light wood or charcoal fires inside or in enclosed spaces and only approved heating appliances should be used. If symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are suspected, occupants should immediately leave the building, call 999 or seek medical assistance.

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