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Does age affect presenting symptoms in children with carbon monoxide poisoning?

OBJECTIVE: Previous studies have reported on a link between carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) levels and the severity of presenting findings. However, studies on pediatric populations evaluating the effect of age on presenting symptoms are severely lacking. The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of any link between age and presenting symptoms in children with carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

METHODS: This retrospective study was undertaken in Ankara Children's Hematology and Oncology Hospital, a tertiary care center, between January 2007 and March 2010. The medical records of patients aged between 0 and 16 years with a confirmed diagnosis of CO poisoning, defined as the presence of a COHb level of more than 5%, were evaluated. Relevant information such as age, sex, source of CO, coaffected family members, month of presentation, time of presentation and presenting symptoms, duration of oxygen treatment in the emergency department, need for admission to an inpatient ward or intensive care unit, Glasgow Coma Scale scores, and administered treatments during follow-up was recorded for each patient on preprepared forms. For the purpose of comparison, patients were divided into 2 groups based on COHb levels (group 1, 5%-25%; group 2, >25%). Comparisons were also made after dividing patients into 3 age groups: infants (0-3 years), preschool and early-school children (4-8 years), and adolescents (9-16 years).

RESULTS: The records of 261 patients were deemed sufficient for inclusion in the final analysis, 149 (57.1%) of which were female, and 112 (42.9%) were male, with a median age of 7.0 years (range, 1 month to 16 years) and a mean COHb level 16.9% (SD, 7.8%). Two hundred eighteen patients (83.5%) had a COHb between 5% and 25% on presentation, whereas the remaining 43 patients (16.5%) had a presenting COHb of greater than 25%. Neurologic symptoms such as headache, syncope, seizures, and confusion were encountered more frequently in the COHb greater than 25% group compared with the group with 5% to 25% COHb levels, with adolescents having more severe symptoms than do younger patients.

CONCLUSIONS: In this study, we managed to demonstrate the presence of more severe symptoms in patients with a COHb level of 25% or greater. Further analysis revealed that severe symptoms were more pronounced in adolescents and that the severity of symptoms increased with age.

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