Mayo emergency medicine physician: ‘If you don’t have to go out, it’s best not to’

Published 3:45 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023

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This week three separate snow systems either hit or are projected to hit the southern Minnesota and northern Iowa areas, and schools canceled throughout the region.

And it’s not just schools that are encouraging people to stay inside when possible.

Venkatesh Bellamkonda, a Mayo Clinic emergency medicine physician

“If you don’t have to go out, it’s best not to,” said Venkatesh Bellamkonda, a Mayo Clinic emergency medicine physician.

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That said, he suggested if a person does have to travel, he encouraged taking extra clothing, blankets and water. He also suggested bringing a small shovel, and keeping any sand or salt in the car in case travelers get stuck.

Bellamkonda said before settling in and waiting for a tow truck or other support vehicle to double-check and ensure exhaust mechanisms are open and free and that snow hadn’t blocked anything up.

“If you are [backed up against something], dig that out and make sure that that’s free and open to vent so that you don’t have carbon monoxide buildup in the interior of your vehicle.”

Bellamkonda stressed signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning were subtle and could creep up unexpectedly on a person.

“You might have a small headache and feel a little nauseated,” he said. “But it’d be hard to distinguish at that moment due to the fact that you were in, theoretically, your car spun out into an embankment.”

According to the Mayo Clinic News Network, carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless and is produced by burning gasoline, propane and other fuel. But not ventilating engines correctly, especially in enclosed spaces, can lead to a dangerous level of the gas.

He said another type of vehicle that posed a danger in this type of weather were snowmobiles.

Bellamkonda said first and foremost it was important to wear a helmet while taking precautions.

“It can look like so much fun, and it could be a lot of fun to go fast or do some more aggressive maneuvers with these motor vehicles, but this is not the time to do that,” he said, referring to the winter storms.

And, according to Bellamkonda, some of the most traumatic injuries people can sustain include falling on walkways or driveways, with older adults being at a greater risk.

He also encouraged anyone worried about their health to see their doctor when possible.

“We want you to call, we want you to come in,” he said. “If you need 911 and an ambulance to get you to us, we encourage you to do that.”

“People still have heart attacks, strokes and severe infections even on bad weather days.”