Cook Children’s Sees Spike in Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Patients During Freezing Temperatures
Cook Children’s Medical Center is seeing an increase in patients with carbon monoxide poisoning as historic frigid temperatures continue across the state. Sam Selby, D.O., emergency medicine physician at Cook Children’s, treated at least 13 patients overnight as families attempted to heat their homes. Millions of Texans have been without power since the early morning hours on Monday, leaving them to find alternative ways to keep their families warm.
“We’re in an unprecedented time of low temperatures across the entire state. Because of that, we've had rolling power outages,” Dr. Selby explained. “Several families, including my own, don’t have enough gas to power their heaters. With families struggling to keep warm, I've seen a lot of families go to extreme measures, meaning they're putting things in their home that aren’t safe.”
Dr. Selby has seen families use propane or diesel-burning engines that are meant for outside use with adequate ventilation. Families are also using generators inside or too close to their homes or garages, which emits fumes and can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. While generators can help keep you warm and keep your lights on, using them inside your home does more harm than good.
During a press conference hosted by Cook Children’s Wednesday, Phillip Scott, M.D., pediatric hospitalist, said one patient was treated after inhaling fumes from a charcoal grill that the family was using too close to the home. "To treat this patients, what we do is put them on 100% oxygen," Dr. Scott said. "That helps flush the toxin out of their system and replace it with oxygen."
Those at a higher risk for carbon monoxide poisoning include infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with heart or breathing problems.
“Carbon monoxide poisoning prevents your blood from being able to bind to or carry oxygen. You suffocate while you are still breathing,” Dr. Selby explained.
Families need to be aware of what type of heat source they are using and make sure it is safe for indoors. “If you are using anything that burns propane, like a camper stove, it needs to be used exclusively outside and away from the home,” Dr. Selby said.
- Upset Stomach
- Chest Pain
- Flu-like symptoms
Here are some additional ways to keep your family safe during this time:
- Don’t use anything such as a BBQ grill or propane tank to heat your home.
- Don’t run a vehicle inside of a garage attached to your home.
- Don’t heat your home with a gas oven or stovetop.
- Don’t burn charcoal inside of your home.
- Do seek medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Do ensure the carbon monoxide detectors in your home are properly functioning and installed in areas that will wake you if it alarms.
- Do check for local resources, such as warming shelters, to keep your family safe.
Another winter storm could bring several more inches of snow in the coming days. While trying to stay warm, remember safety is your top priority!