FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Doctors at Cook Children's Hospital are warning people about how they're heating their homes after at least one parent died, and ten children suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.
Plummeting temperatures have created the possibly dangerous situation for thousands of Texans who don't typically see freezing temperatures.
"Every patient that I admitted was a call for carbon monoxide poisoning. This is something we just don't see... I don't remember the last time I took care of a patient with CO poisoning. But this is what we were seeing all night," said Pediatrician Phillip Scott, M.D.
Parents are simply trying to keep their children warm and fed after the winter storm exhausted the state's power supply; leaving at least four million residents without power in the last 48 hours.
But using anything that burns fuel – gas stoves -- or any type of fire, grill or charcoal grill increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
"The first kid I saw was about five years old. His family was using a charcoal grill on their apartment patio. It was right outside the door, (not even in the apartment) but a lot of the smoke was blowing in when they opened the door. That sat down to eat dinner and he started having headaches. The he became very sleepy and his mother realized something was off so she brought him in," said Dr. Scott.
Scott treated the child by putting him on 100% oxygen to flush the toxins out of his system. He survived.
But the parent of another child brought in did not.
Dr. Blanka Soria-Olmos explained why children are more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning.
"Children breathe faster than adults so they are taking in more of the fumes more quickly," she said. "Their respiratory rate is faster than an adults so they're taking in and inhaling more CO per pound or per body weight than an adult would in the same scenario."
The first signs of CO poisoning is headaches and sleepiness. People may appear in an altered state. And, according to Scott, mild symptoms can quickly turn deadly.
"It's headaches, sleepiness, nausea, coma then death. It's a toxin that slowly just lulls everyone to sleep. You can't smell or see it."
If power is out, people should never use their stove as a source for heat. They should make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working, and if using a generator be careful where it's placed.
"The families had been using a generator in their garage — running electrical cables in the house to power heaters in the house. And the gas from the generator was leaking from the garage into the house," described Dr. Soria-Olmos. "People have this idea that we need to keep generators out of the house but if it's close it can still leak into the house and cause issues."
Generators need to be at least several yards away from the door.
While many of those admitted overnight now have improved toxin levels and will go home, Soria-Olmos is worried about prolonged power outages inadvertently causing more poisonings.
"It's a silent killer and people need to be aware of it because we have several more days of cold weather."
Anyone who is running a different heat or power source and is feeling unwell should get to fresh air immediately.
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