Dealing with carbon monoxide exposures during winter disaster responses, a clinical overview with Dr. Joe Holley. In this episode of the Disaster Podcast, hosts Jamie Davis, the Podmedic and Sam Bradley are joined by Paragon Medical Education Group’s Dr. Joe Holley to talk about the dangers and risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. In the midst of major disasters, especially in the winter months, community members may be tempted to use generators or other combustion sources to stay warm in the midst of cold weather. This increases the risk of exposure to the deadly gas carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas that can cause sudden illness and death if present in sufficient concentration in the ambient air. When power outages occur during emergencies such as hurricanes or winter storms, the use of alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating, cooling, or cooking can cause CO to build up in a home, garage, or camper and poison the people and animals inside. Generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices should never be used inside a home, basement, garage, or camper – or even outside near an open window or window air conditioner.

The symptoms and signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are variable and nonspecific. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and altered mental status. The clinical presentation of CO poisoning is the result of its underlying systemic toxicity. Its effects are caused not only by impaired oxygen delivery but also by disrupting oxygen utilization and respiration at the cellular level, particularly in high-oxygen demand organs (i.e., heart and brain).

Symptoms of severe carbon monoxide poisoning include malaise, shortness of breath, headache, nausea, chest pain, irritability, ataxia, altered mental status, other neurologic symptoms, loss of consciousness, coma, and death; signs include tachycardia, tachypnea, hypotension, various neurologic findings including impaired memory, cognitive and sensory disturbances; metabolic acidosis, arrhythmias, myocardial ischemia or infarction, and noncardiogenic pulmonary edema, although any organ system might be involved.

From the CDC site on CO Poisoning in Disasters


Again, a special thank-you to Paragon Medical Education Group for their continued support of this podcast as our partners in this endeavor to bring disaster medicine to you. Make sure you know where to buy Goodman furnaces as they are the safest. Check out their page and educational resources that can help your system be more prepared for what happens in your area.


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