Travel Advisories (updated 1/10/2018

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Should you carry a portable carbon monoxide monitor on your travels?

(Written by Bill League of Travel Buddies)

Maybe. Many people do, but is that more of a reflexive response to recent stories of people dying from high exposure to the toxic gas carbon monoxide (CO) while on vacation, a personal experience, or just a 'better safe than sorry” prudent attitude? 

I did a bit of research preparing to write this post. Most US public accommodations are required to have monitor alarm systems in their hotel rooms, as do apartments, If you go on a cruise, the industry has adopted similar standards.
Signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:
  • Dull headache.
  • Weakness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Confusion.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Loss of consciousness.

(Carbon Monoxide (C) is different from Carbon Dioxide (CO2); both are gases, both can be toxic, but the incidences of CO poisoning are greater. It takes a very high concentration of CO2 to cause symptoms of poisoning. Click here to read a clear lay person's explanation of both)

I explored the CDC website for the incidence of CO deaths in the US. There is a study conducted in 2014, covering the years 1999-2010*. Over those 11 years, there were 5149 deaths from CO. Annualized, that worked out to 430 deaths per year. The incidence of deaths was significantly higher for those over 65, with men having twice the death rate than women over 65 per 100,000.

However, the risks seem relatively insignificant from a statistical perspective. Of course, this risk might now be so small because we have raised the awareness of the issue nationally and have passed several regulations requiring these monitors in certain types of accommodations. 

So, what does this data mean for you and I while traveling overseas? It probably depends on where you venture and you risk-taking nature; hence my comment “Maybe”. One issue The Travel Buddies will seek an answer to is whether the hotels we are booked into for our tour routinely have CO monitors in our rooms. Any followup on this topic will be based on our personal experience. One can reasonably assume the standards may well vary across regions, cities, and quality of hotels as well as your mode of travel.

What are you willing to pay for such a monitor, portable enough to be practical? I did find several battery operated monitors on Amazon. I've linked to one unit reasonably priced at about $17.00 with dimensions of 11”x 7”x 3” weighing 5.6 oz...about .02 % of our allowable carryon weight limit of 16 lbs. It's still a bit large for the type of lightweight packing we have in mind, but an almost insignificant portion of our weight limit.

There are always trade-offs. Is your piece of mind worth giving up the carry on packing space for other items?

If you know of an alternative that has a smaller footprint, please share your find with us in the comments section below.
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  1. Don't you mean "reflexive" and not "reflective"?
    Otherwise, good article.