Authored by Katie O’Grady
Who would’ve ever thought that packing a carbon monoxide detector would be an essential and life-saving item in one’s travel-kit arsenal?
We certainly didn’t until tragedy struck and my husband nearly lost his life to carbon monoxide poisoning at a “boutique hotel” in Central Mexico.
After dropping our twins off at their much-anticipated 6th grade camp in a rural community outside of Guadalajara, Frank and I set out to enjoy our weekend together, knowing that our children would be in good hands in the company of their classmates and the Camp La Cañada counselors, including a medic on staff. Never forget a travel carbon monoxide detector.
But instead of enjoying a romantic weekend of exploring and relaxing together, we spent it fighting for Frank’s life. So I pen an open letter to all travelers.
Travel with a Portable Carbon Monoxide Detector. They Save Lives!
How could such a thing happen?
After nearly three hours of working next to our hotel room window, where just on the other side was a malfunctioning hot water heater, Frank was overcome by severe visual disturbances, headache, confus
With ghost-white skin and dangerously high blood pressure, he feared he was forever leaving us. Truth be told–shaking down to my bones–I feared our time together in this realm had met its end.
How would I have picked my children up from camp without their daddy? Unthinkable. Carbon monoxide poisoning in hotels.
Do mistakes and bad things just happen? Absolutely.
But in this case, the hotel management (with the owners out of town) had attached a temporary, yellow-flame spewing water heater to the outside of the room that we were bumped to due to overbooking on a busy, holiday weekend.
Carbon Monoxide Leaks
Carbon monoxide, or CO is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning material containing carbon. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage and death. You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it; but carbon monoxide can kill you. So you should have a portable co detector for travel.
The gas is formed when organic compounds burn. The most common sources are motor vehicle exhaust, smoke from fires, engine fumes, and, where a hotel might be concerned, nonelectric heaters.
Confirmation by the hotel staff that two carbon monoxide leaks had been found in this water heater and all of Frank’s symptoms clearly pointed to CO poisoning. He got carbon monoxide poisoning from a hotel room.
Red Cross, hospital and hyperbaric chamber tests and treatment further confirmed it. It was not an allergic reaction, it was not a heart attack, it was not a stroke. It was carbon monoxide poisoning.
Only time away from the source and continuous oxygen therapy including two 80-minute hyperbaric treatment sessions saved his life. Frank is a 25-year veteran retired firefighter. Talk about irony.
A Terrifying Experience
As a result of this terrifying experience, we now ALWAYS travel with carbon monoxide detectors and highly recommend to others that they too acquire several for both home and travel purposes.
Carbon monoxide is silent, odorless and tasteless.
While this was a brutal experience we would never wish on anyone, it is our hope that via the sharing of our story, we will help to inform, empower and protect others. And convince you to have a travel carbon monoxide detector.
In peace, health and gratitude for this one precious life.
Carbon Monoxide in Hotels
Only a handful of countries require carbon monoxide detectors in hotels. Prior to booking your accommodation, inquire as to whether or not high quality CO detectors are installed throughout the building.
Though even if hotels claim to have them installed, in order to save money, they often don’t follow through. You can buy them for as cheap as $16 on Amazon, so we recommend all travelers add this to their list of essentials.
The device is small enough to be conveniently kept in your car, purse, pocket, and especially important, your hotel room, and at the end of the day, you’re buying yourself peace of mind.
CO incidents in hotels are rare but they have killed people. CO is a very real danger. Early symptoms include headache, dizziness and nausea. As carbon monoxide builds up in your blood, symptoms get worse and may include confusion and drowsiness, fast breathing, fast heartbeat, or chest pain, vision problems and/or seizures.
If you have symptoms that you believe could be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning leave the area right away, in this case, your hotel room, and call an ambulance or visit the nearest hospital.
How You Can Protect Yourself
#1 Buy a Portable Carbon Monoxide Detector
#2 Make SURE You Buy Travel Medical Insurance
If you’re one of the lucky ones, you might escape a Carbon Monoxide incident, but if you don’t have travel medical insurance, you’re going to end up with a very large hospital bill.
The cost of healthcare overseas is notoriously high – just a few days in hospital could bankrupt you depending on the country. So it’s absolutely essential that you travel with worldwide medical insurance.
We’re not joking or over exaggerating; even in developing countries, healthcare costs can be outrageous and put you into serious debt. Five days in South Africa for my friend in a shared hospital ward reached close to $10,000. He only had a broken arm.
Why We Recommend SafetyWing
It’s not good enough to just buy any travel medical insurance, you have to make sure that you’ve purchased it from a reliable provider.
If you spend money on a product that doesn’t do you any good, you’ve actually wasted money, which is worse than not having insured yourself at all.
We recommend SafetyWing because they’re a company specifically set up to insure nomads; people who travel full time. They cover people from all over the world, and include medical: hospital expenses, intensive care, ambulance, urgent care, and physical therapy.
These are the reasons we recommend their insurance:
➤ Completely reliable: SafetyWing policies are administered by Tokio Marine, one of the largest insurance companies in the world. They are always available, offering 24/7 support.
➤ Completely flexible: It works like a subscription; you can choose your start date and cancel any time. There is no cap on the duration of the trip and no need to know how long you’ll be travelling in advance. You can set up monthly auto-renewal payments to avoid having your coverage expire and forgetting to renew in time.
➤ Completely Affordable! Travel medical coverage starts from $37 for 4 weeks of coverage. This is a third of the price of the biggest competitor for similar coverage.
➤ Offers worldwide coverage, as well as limited home country coverage (up to 30 days every 3 months). It is available for purchase in 180 countries and can be purchased while you’re already traveling.
➤ Young children included: 1 young child per adult (up to 2 per family) aged between 14 days and 10 years old can be included on the insurance without added cost.
➤ Seriously. Click to sign up for travel medical insurance now.
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