-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, April 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Weather-related power
outages and snowstorms may increase the risk of potentially fatal
carbon monoxide poisoning, a new study finds.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that
can reach dangerous levels in unventilated areas and cause serious
illness or death. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include
headache, nausea and dizziness.
Researchers looked at data gathered by the Connecticut Poison
Control Center after a 2011 winter storm that caused widespread
power outages and a heavy 2013 snowstorm. There were 172 carbon
monoxide poisoning cases associated with the 2011 storm and 34
cases with the 2013 storm.
Most of the cases occurred within the first day of the 2013
storm and on the second and third days of the 2011 storm. Indoor
use of portable gas-powered generators, propane heaters/lanterns
and charcoal grills were the most common causes of carbon monoxide
exposure after the power-outage storm, according to the study in
the May issue of the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"Adequate ventilation is a key component of carbon monoxide poisoning prevention," lead investigator Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, of Hartford Hospital's department of emergency medicine, said in a journal news release.
"Following multiple reports of carbon monoxide exposures and fatalities after power-loss storms, there has been an increase in public health education regarding the importance of avoiding indoor use of generators and charcoal grills during a storm's aftermath," she added.
Car exhaust was the most common cause of carbon monoxide
exposure after the heavy snowstorm. This occurs when car tailpipes
become clogged with snow.
"Lethal concentrations of carbon monoxide can form in the passenger compartment of a snow-obstructed vehicle, even when the vehicle's windows are opened 6 inches," study co-author Dadong Li, from the hospital's department of research administration, said in the news release.
"It is therefore important to counsel the public to examine their vehicles after snowstorms to ensure that the exhaust area is cleared of snow, prior to starting the engine," Li said. "In addition, people should be advised to avoid sitting in running automobiles during and after snowstorms, unless the exhaust area has been completely cleared of snow, regardless of whether the windows are opened."
The researchers also found that carbon monoxide poisoning can
occur when large amounts of snow block home heating vents.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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