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January 22, 1992

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Children Riding in the Back of Pickup Trucks

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, Virginia Mason Clinic (Dr Hampson), and the Hyperbaric Department, Virginia Mason Medical Center (Dr Hampson and Ms Norkool), Seattle, Wash.

JAMA. 1992;267(4):538-540. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480040086036

Objective.  —To describe the case characteristics of a series of children poisoned with carbon monoxide while traveling in the back of pickup trucks.

Design.  —Pediatric cases referred for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning with hyperbaric oxygen between 1986 and 1991 were reviewed. Those cases that occurred during travel in the back of pickup trucks were selected. Clinical follow-up by telephone interview ranged from 2 to 55 months.

Setting.  —A private, urban, tertiary care center in Seattle, Wash.

Patients.  —Twenty children ranging from 4 to 16 years of age.

Intervention.  —All patients were treated with hyperbaric oxygen.

Main Outcome Measures.  —Characteristics of the poisoning incident and clinical patient outcome.

Results.  —Of 68 pediatric patients treated for accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, 20 cases occurred as children rode in the back of pickup trucks. In 17 of these, the children were riding under a rigid closed canopy on the rear of the truck, while three episodes occurred as children rode beneath a tarpaulin. Average carboxyhemoglobin level on emergency department presentation was 18.2% ± 2.4% (mean ± SEM; range, 1.6% to 37.0%). Loss of consciousness occurred in 15 of the 20 children. One child died of cerebral edema, one had permanent neurologic deficits, and 18 had no recognizable sequelae related to the episode. In all cases, the truck exhaust system had a previously known leak or a tail pipe that exited at the rear rather than at the side of the pickup truck.

Conclusions.  —Carbon monoxide poisoning is a significant hazard for children who ride in the back of pickup trucks. If possible, this practice should be avoided.(JAMA. 1992;267:538-540)