CDC urges clinicians to screen hurricane victims for CO poisoning

In the wake of Hurricane Florence, the CDC issued a report Sept. 17, reminding clinicians treating patients from affected areas to check for signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

After the hurricane left thousands in the southeastern U.S. without power, people turned to alternate power sources, such as gasoline generators, propane or charcoal grills for cooking. If used improperly, these alternate power sources could lead to CO buildup and poisoning.

The signs and symptoms of CO exposure are varied and nonspecific, though the most common symptom is a tension-type headache. Other symptoms associated with mild CO poisoning are dizziness, flu-like symptoms without a fever, drowsiness, chest pain and altered mental status. Signs of severe CO poisoning include tachycardia, tachypnea and hypotension, among other symptoms.   

Children, pregnant women, the unborn, people with sickle cell disease, older adults and people with chronic illnesses are most at risk for CO poisoning, although the illness can be fatal to anyone.

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