In cold snaps, be mindful of hypothermia, gas poisoning

December 19, 2022

In cold snaps, be mindful of hypothermia, gas poisoning

With below-freezing temperatures forecast this week in western Washington, UW Medicine specialists warn against two threats that accompany frigid weather: hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Dr. Stephen Morris, an emergency medicine physician, says it’s important to recognize common signs of hypothermia

“(When people are) severely hypothermic, they get confused. They're shivering uncontrollably. They can have difficulty walking,” Morris said. “Those are times when you really need to call Medic One and get them down there to help you and get you to the hospital.” 

Dr. Beth Ebel, a pediatrician at Harborview’s Pediatric Clinic and Injury Prevention & Research Center, says using a generator to keep warm if a power outage occurs makes sense — as long as the machine is outside. 

“It’s so dangerous to have an engine in the house running because it produces carbon monoxide (CO), which you don’t smell,” said Ebel. “It makes you sleepy and then it kills you.”  Symptoms of CO poisoning can include severe headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness and fatigue. 

Download broadcast-ready soundbites with health risks and warnings during stretches of frigid weather. 

Related resources: 

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