Spike in carbon monoxide poisoning prompts warning to keep coals outside

People are being urged to stop burning coals or charcoal briquettes indoors after 17 people, including nine children in NSW, were affected by carbon monoxide poisoning in just a week.

NOT A HEATER: Barbecues and outdoor heaters should only be used outside, NSW authorities warn.

NOT A HEATER: Barbecues and outdoor heaters should only be used outside, NSW authorities warn.

The spike in cases has alarmed health authorities, particularly as people are spending more time at home during the winter lockdown with children and the elderly particularly vulnerable to its effects.

The medical director at the Poisons Information Centre, Darren Roberts, says carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that's extremely toxic and often people don't realise they are inhaling it until it's too late.

Most incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning occur when charcoal is burnt inside at night for heat, often in barbecues. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include: headache, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Prolonged exposure can lead to unconsciousness and in some instances, permanent brain damage or death.

"It is vital that people never burn barbecue coals indoors or in enclosed spaces," Dr Roberts said.