While COVID-19 dictates waiting in vehicles during medical appointments, extra precaution is needed throughout snowy Western New York months

HAMBURG, NY January 20, 2021 – Many drivers know the deadly consequences that can result from sitting in a car too long while it’s running in an enclosed space, such as a garage. However, now that the snow is flying and snow piles are popping up in parking lots all across Western New York, Southtowns Radiology wants to remind drivers to also be mindful of ensuring that tail pipes are free and clear while waiting in a running car – especially while a loved one is being seen for a medical appointment.

Because of COVID-19, many times loved ones are not able to accompany patients into their appointment, even to wait in the reception area, like they used to. In fact, the majority of hospitals, urgent care centers, and doctor’s offices across Western New York have instituted a no visitor policy to limit personal contact during the pandemic.

“At Southtowns Radiology, we recommend, for safety and social distancing, that only patients come into the building, and that others wait in their vehicles,” said Cathy Fitzgerald, R.N., practice administrator at Southtowns Radiology’s Orchard Park Office. “Be mindful of where you’re parking if you need to stay in the car – please double check that your exhaust is not backed up tight to a snowbank while you wait.”

With the average wait time of 18 minutes, and the average appointment time of 22 minutes for medical appointments throughout the U.S., a loved one could be left waiting in a vehicle for upwards of 40-60 minutes in some cases. Given that January is the coldest month in Western New York, most caregivers will find themselves waiting in a running vehicle at some point over the next few weeks.

“Now is a good time to have your exhaust system checked, to be extra aware of where you park and of how long you are in your car, especially if you are routinely driving a family member, neighbor or friend to and from medical appointments,” added Fitzgerald. “While it’s a small detail, it can have deadly consequences if overlooked. Any reminders we can give to ensure the health and safety of patients – as well as their caregivers – we’ll take it.”

Carbon monoxide poisoning from vehicle exhaust claims approximately 400 lives across the United States each year. Because there is no distinct odor, color or other indicative factors, victims of the poisoning are often unaware. Symptoms to watch for include headache, nausea, disorientation, and dizziness.

Medical practices are encouraged to tell patients when they register to remind those waiting in the vehicle to be safe during the frigid months where we see a lot of snow. Southtowns Radiology has a printable poster, available to any office to print for no cost, on their website at www.southtownsradiology.com/providers.