Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Staying Safe in your Campervan

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Staying Safe in your Campervan

carbon monoxide poisoning in a campervan

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is often called “the silent killer”. It is a poisonous gas that you cannot see, smell or taste.

Carbon Monoxide is naturally found when you burn fossil fuels such as coal, wood, gas and charcoal.

If you are burning any of these fossil fuels in your campervan, it is absolutely vital that you have adequate ventilation in place when doing so.

Watch this excellent video by GasSafe on Carbon Monoxide

How can Carbon Monoxide poison a human being?

carbon monoxide poisoning in a campervan 02

You can become poisoned by carbon monoxide when it ‘sticks’ to the haemoglobin in the blood. This can then slowly starve the oxygen that the haemoglobin requires.

As a result, it can starve the body and tissue.

What are the telltale signs of Carbon Monoxide Poising?

According to the United Kingdoms National Health Service, poisoning by carbon monoxide can cause these type of symptoms;

  • Tension-type headaches
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea (feeling and being sick)
  • Tiredness and Confusion 
  • Stomach pains
  • Breathlessness

The symptoms of exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can be similar to those of food poisoning and flu.

But unlike flu, carbon monoxide poisoning does not cause a high temperature.

Over an extended period, it is possible to become ill or quiet quickly depending on the level of exposure.

If symptoms seem to develop when you are near your appliance, and you feel better when you are outside, then there is a possibility you are being poisoned.

What should I do if I suspect my appliance is causing carbon monoxide poisoning?

If you suspect that your appliance may be producing excessive carbon monoxide gas, you should turn-off/shut-down the suspected appliance immediately.

It is also advisable to leave the area as soon as you can.

You should also try and open any doors, roof vents and windows to allow as much fresh into your vehicle as fast as you can.

Furthermore, you should also seek urgent medical attention.

What tips should I take to stay safe in my campervan?

The most effective way of defending yourself and the inhabitants of your vehicle is prevention.

These steps illustrated below will hopefully keep you and the inhabitants safe and well when using your campervan.

  • Purchase a good carbon-monoxide detector – A carbon monoxide detector is different to smoke detectors despite looking very similar. You can pick up a good carbon-monoxide detector for around £15 to £20. It is important to note that batteries should be replaced every year and the unit itself should be replaced every 7 to 10 years. When installing the detector, try to situate the device as close as you can to your gas appliances.
  • Always have your gas appliances serviced regularly.
  • Keep areas well ventilated – The areas around gas appliances must be well ventilated. Failure to do so may cause the carbon monoxide to have problems escaping efficiently and may return into the vehicle. If you are starting your own self-build campervan project, make sure to have a read of our really useful page about campervan ventilation.
  • DO NOT light barbeques indoors! – This includes inside a tent, awning, caravan or motorhome as a burning BBQ gives off plenty of poisonous carbon monoxide.
  • DO NOT sleep with any gas appliances switched on!
  • Choose appliances that meet British or European safety standards
  • Don’t use any type of portable heater to dry your clothing.

If you are unsure in any way, you should seek professional advice.

Useful Gas Safety Contacts

ComanyContact NumberWeb AddressCountry
Calor03457 444 999Emergency Contact PageUK


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Hi, I’m the founder of Vanlife Adventure, the web’s biggest and most visited website for adventurers who live and explore on the road. As a lifelong traveller and outdoor enthusiast, I’m passionate about sharing my knowledge and experiences to help others live a life of adventure on the road!

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