Cold weather increases risk for carbon monoxide poisoning

Poison HelpWith home-heating season near, the Minnesota Poison Control System and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division remind Minnesotans that the risk of dangerous exposures to carbon monoxide (CO) increases — but these exposures can be prevented.

Approximately 500 people die each year in the United States due to unintentional CO poisoning. Another 150,000 people end up in the emergency room. Children are especially vulnerable. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 14 Minnesotans died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2014.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and poisonous gas which can leak from faulty furnaces, water heaters or gas stoves. Other sources include a running car engine in an attached garage or a gas-powered generator operating indoors or outside close to dwellings. Outdoor generators should be placed more than 20 feet from your home, doors and windows.

What are the Symptoms?
Carbon monoxide prevents effective delivery of oxygen throughout the body in the bloodstream. At lower levels, carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue

At higher levels, or with prolonged exposure, it can cause chest pain, confusion, disorientation, impaired vision and coordination, brain damage, coma and death.

iStock_000070642173_LargeHow Can You Protect Your Family?
Install CO detectors in your home. Minnesota law requires  all single family, apartment and multifamily dwellings have a UL-listed CO alarm within 10 feet of each bedroom.

Replace old CO detectors in your home. As a general rule, CO detectors need replacing every five years.  Follow manufacturer recommendations for more specific replacement information.

If the CO alarm sounds and anyone is feeling symptoms of CO poisoning, leave the house immediately. Call the Poison Center, fire department, local emergency medical services or local utility company.

For more information about CO poisoning, contact the Minnesota Poison Control System anytime at 1-800-222-1222 or visit us on the web at www.mnpoison.org. The State Fire Marshal Division has more information at http://ow.ly/Tb2O3

 Fire Marshal

 

Poison Prevention Tips for Child Safety

Poison HelpNational Poison Prevention Week
March 15 – 21

In support of National Poison Prevention Week, March 15-21, the Minnesota Poison Control System and Safe Kids Minnesota are offering simple suggestions to keep children safe. The organizations emphasize that poisonings can happen anytime, anywhere, and to anyone.

The Poison Center states that about 50 percent of poisonings occur in children under the age of six and 94% of poisonings occur in the home. Recent research from Safe Kids Worldwide found that only 4% of parents expressed concerns about poisoning compared to other injury hazards in the home. In another Safe Kids report, 77% of children’s poison-related emergency room visits were related to exposure to medications belonging to a parent or grandparent.

To prevent these incidents, the Poison Center and Safe Kids Minnesota offer these important tips for families:

  • Program the nationwide Poison Help number (1-800-222-1222) into your cell or home phones.
  • Keep medicines and household products in their original containers.
  • Keep all medicines and household products up high and out of sight or locked up. If visitors are expected in your home, make sure suitcases and purses are stored out of children’s reach; remind visitors to take responsibility for their own medications.
  • Take the time to read and follow the label before taking or giving medicine.

Key Facts About the Minnesota Poison Control System

Anytime, anywhere, anyone can call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Anytime: The Poison Center Emergency Call Center is available 24/7/365. It’s free and confidential.

Anywhere: In 2014, the Poison Center managed 48,446 calls statewide from homes, schools, workplaces, and health care facilities statewide.

Anyone can call for help managing poison emergencies including; parents, caregivers, community members, emergency medical personnel, nurses, and physicians.

The Poison Center saves lives and money throughout Minnesota. Every dollar spent on Poison Center services saves over $13 in unnecessary medical costs. Ninety-one percent of exposures in the home are safely managed at home with expert consultation.

In 2014, Poison Center services saved Minnesotans $35 million in health care and lost productivity costs and prevented 27,000 unnecessary Emergency Department visits.

Visit www.mnpoison.org or www.safekids.org/medicinesafety for more prevention tips, educational resources, and downloadable materials. Follow The Poison Center on Twitter @mnpoisoncenter or on Facebook.

The Minnesota Poison Control System is located at Hennepin County Medical Center. The Poison Center is designated by the Minnesota Department of Health to provide poison information and consultative services to the entire State of Minnesota.

Safe Kids Minnesota works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States. Safe Kids Minnesota is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Minnesota was founded in 1988 and is led by the Minnesota Safety Council. For more information, visit safekids.org   or minnesotasafetycouncil.org/safekids.

Holidays, Kids, and Medicine: Safety tips

Medication Safety Tips From the Minnesota Poison Control System

Poison HelpAccording to the Centers for Disease Control, over 60,000 children are seen in emergency departments annually due to accessing and ingesting medication.

Continue reading “Holidays, Kids, and Medicine: Safety tips”

Don’t get “burned” by frostbite!

Every year, the Burn Center at HCMC admits approximately 20-30 patients for treatment of frostbite.

Burn surgeons take care of injuries from extreme temperatures — both hot and cold.  Dr. Anne Lambert answers some general questions about frostbite.

What causes frostbite?

“Depending on how quickly the person gets cold, there are ice crystals forming within and around their cells, not unlike putting a piece of meat in the freezer,” explains burn surgeon Dr. Anne Lambert. “With the ice crystals forming, it decreases the blood flow and literally at some point stops the blood flow to certain points of the extremities.”

What body parts are most vulnerable to frostbite? 

“Just like everything else, our body tries to preserve the heat for its important parts, like the brain and other internal organs, so during cold temperatures, the blood vessels start to get smaller, decreasing blood flow to the distant parts of the body — like noses, ears, fingers and toes.  While these areas are the most likely body parts to be affected by frostbite, we’ve had people come in with their entire arm or leg frozen as well.”

 

Keep cool if you have a chronic medical condition

HCMC physicians are advising that people with chronic medical conditions, like those with heart or lung problems, take extra care to avoid extreme heat conditions.

Chief of Cardiology Dr. Bradley Bart

“While there is no direct relationship between excessive heat and cardiac arrest, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can lead to cardiac arrest requiring CPR and defibrillation in some instances,” explains HCMC cardiologist Dr. Brad Bart. “Patients with chronic cardiopulmonary conditions are put under extra stress when the weather is excessively hot and this can lead to worsening heart failure, severe dyspnea, worsening angina and/or myocardial infarction.”

It’s important to check on elderly friends and family members — and those who have health concerns — when heat advisories are issued. Make sure they stay cool and are drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated.

For more hot weather safety tips, go to www.hcmc.org/outdoors.

Hennepin Regional Poison Center celebrates 40 years of caring for poison emergencies

Name your poison — Hennepin Regional Poison Center can help

Exposure to carbon monoxide, medications, plants and household cleaners are just a few of the reasons people call Hennepin Regional Poison Center (HRPC) for help. Since 1972 it’s been one of the state’s most valuable resources, responsible for saving thousands of lives. Today the Poison Center continues to provide an essential resource for patients, providers and anyone in need of information about poison.

Alice Lange "Poison Alice" answering phone calls in 1972.

On February 7, 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed the third week of March to be National Poison Prevention Week. Ten years later Hennepin Regional Poison Center, located in Hennepin County Medical Center, began caring for poison emergencies in the state of Minnesota – thanks to Alice Lange (a.k.a. Poison Alice), who pioneered HRPC with a telephone and index cards. During her first month on duty she handled 70 calls. Today, 40 years later, the Hennepin Regional Poison Center responds to an average of 4,600 calls monthly.

“Back in 1972 some of the typical calls were similar to today – kids eating iron tablets, or someone accidentally splashing cleaning solution in his or her eyes,” explains Jon Cole, MD, Medical Director of HRPC. “As new chemicals, interactions and trends in usage are being thought of everyday, there’s never a dull moment in our work. And unfortunately, in addition to accidental exposures, intentional exposure to chemicals like methamphetamine and bath salts is increasing. Last year 1,963 of the calls we received were related to people purposefully exposing themselves to a chemical to obtain a high.”

In 2011, the Hennepin Regional Poison Center responded to 55,205 emergency calls from every county in Minnesota. Approximately 92 percent of the time when the Hennepin Regional Poison Center is contacted for a poison emergency, they are able to provide instruction for care in the home, which avoids an unnecessary visit to the emergency department. In 2011, this saved the general healthcare system in Minnesota an estimated 26 million dollars.

The Hennepin Regional Poison Center is free and confidential, and staffed by specially trained pharmacists who are available 24/7, 365 days a year.  Just call 1-800-222-1222 for any poison emergency or go to www.mnpoison.org for more information about the Hennepin Regional Poison Center.

Avoiding unnecessary radiation: low-dose X-rays, CT scans at HCMC

Doctors at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) now have a new diagnostic tool that gives them the information they need – without the extra radiation patients don’t need. It’s part of a new approach to medical imaging based on Philips CT (cat scan) and X-ray systems, which includes techniques, programs and practices to ensure the best image quality while reducing radiation exposure to patients and the hospital’s clinical staff.

Chip Truwit, MD

“Everyone’s concerned about radiation exposure, and the goal of X-ray and CT scanning is to obtain a clear image so we’re able to make an accurate diagnosis,” explains Dr. Chip Truwit, Chief of Radiology at HCMC. “More radiation used to mean clearer image – but not with this new technology. We’re now able to customize the radiation to the patient and deliver only what’s needed to get a clear image. This often results in being able to reduce the patients’ exposure by one-half or even down to one-tenth of what we’d normally use.” Continue reading “Avoiding unnecessary radiation: low-dose X-rays, CT scans at HCMC”