Native carbon monoxide poisoning circumstances surge
HOUSTON Houstonians and others desperate to heat their homes without electricity poisoned themselves in record numbers Tuesday by running cars or generators in the garage and grills in the house, emergency officers said.
More than 100 patients had to be brought to Memorial Hermann in less than 24 hours, the medical director reported. More than half of them, children.
“It certainly happens when it gets cold, but never in these numbers,” said Dr. Samuel Prater. “This is an absolute public health disaster.”
“This carbon monoxide is … a poison that removes oxygen from your brain, heart, and other vital organs,” he added. “And children are actually at greater risk from any of the long-term brain damage.”
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said more than 300 reports of carbon monoxide poisoning were reported Tuesday. The Houston Fire Department reported 90 911 calls about the poisoning, including 14 at a Cy-fair station.
Early Tuesday morning, first responders performing a social check-up found a family of four in their southwest Houston townhouse unconscious while the car was driving in the garage.
The father and his 7-year-old son were taken to the hospital. The mother and her 8-year-old daughter did not survive.
“One of the very first symptoms you will notice is having a mild headache, maybe feeling a little dizzy, maybe a little nauseous,” said Dr. Prater. “[A]When the levels of carbon monoxide in your blood rise, your symptoms get much worse. Your headache is much worse, you may have problems with your eyesight, you may vomit repeatedly, you may start to hear ringing in your ears. Then the person becomes confused, they may actually pass out or lose consciousness, or be in a coma. “
“Some of the long-term effects that you can see is that you can see permanent brain damage, sometimes whether it’s stroke-like brain damage or sometimes, very unusual, we call them psychiatric symptoms,” he added. “Even people who do not die can suffer permanent brain damage from poisoning if it is not recognized quickly and then corrected.”
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