In this installment of Ask a Doctor, UT Health San Antonio physician Dr. Fred Campbell answers Texas Standard listeners’ most pressing questions about their health during this week’s winter storm.
What are the signs of hypothermia, and what can you do to prevent it?
“People always react to hypothermia by shivering and their arms and and legs get … cold. But people that are at high risk, particularly the very old, the infirm and the very young, can get into trouble. So looking for additional signs like confusion or sleepiness would be very important in terms of setting off contact with EMS or some other medical attention.”
Some people have been exposed to carbon monoxide from trying to heat their homes with ovens or gas-powered stoves. What are the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning?
“Early symptoms could be things like headache, nausea, vomiting and, again, confusion. But if anybody has a decrease in consciousness, of course, they should be seen immediately by EMS or taken to the emergency center.”
Can pulse oximeters also be used to measure carbon monoxide in your blood?
No, Campbell says.
“The pulse oximeter … we’ve been using in COVID-19 will not differentiate carbon monoxide poisoning. And so it is important not to use that as a determining factor.”
How do I stay safe from the coronavirus when I’m sheltering with other people right now?
“If they’re in a situation where they’ve been exposed to people outside their household for any significant period of time, then I think it would be safest to assume that you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, and practice the recommended quarantining – the more recent recommendations are for at least a week of quarantining, looking for symptoms of COVID. And that’s with a negative test after that time, or even 10 days if necessary, if you can’t be tested.”
How has the storm affected COVID-19 vaccination efforts?
“I have every reason to believe that it’s going to be a severe reduction in the ability to vaccinate people from here on, at least for a period of time. And I just believe that government should do everything they possibly can to provide the sort of support that’s necessary to get our vaccination program back on on the road and and minimize the amount of death and disability that we’ve seen.”
I’ve received my first vaccine dose. How long can I wait until I get the second?
“[Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] is now recommending that people can wait as long as six weeks, and it’s possible that they will be immune after one vaccination for longer than that. It is recommended, though, that people try to get the second vaccination as quickly as possible.”