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Plea to medical profession to test for carbon monoxide poisoning

CO-Awareness is calling for paramedics, GPs and A&E doctors to be given portable breath test monitors or a device called a CO-oximeter so all patients can be routinely checked for CO poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is colourless and odourless, and claims up to 50 lives in the UK each year. Many people are misdiagnosed as the symptoms are similar to those of flu. Unless a check is made for CO instantly, levels of it reduce quickly. There is no test for CO poisoning during post-mortems.

An awareness campaign last month aimed to highlight the problem and encourage people to get CO alarms fitted in their homes.

CO-Awareness feels that anyone with suspected CO exposure should be tested as soon as possible. The check takes just a few seconds and should ideally be carried out before patients are supplied with an oxygen mask.

Lynn Griffiths of CO-Awareness said: "If the test shows up the presence of CO then a CO blood sample should be done. There is no other way of ruling out CO poisoning. Measurable levels of CO start to fall once you are breathing clean air or oxygen.

"Anyone concerned that they might be being poisoned should get a CO test done as soon as possible to prove that carbon monoxide is causing their problems. This is the only way to help stop misdiagnosis."

CO-Awareness organised the UK's first CO Awareness Week in December 2006. The week was backed by electrical trade association NAPIT (National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers).