Cold. Windy. Damp. Wind Chill. It’s once-again Winter in Chicagoland. That means winter coats, scarfs, extra blankets, and, for many, it means plugging-in a portable space heater. While space heaters can be a quick way to heat-up your home or work area, beware of their dangers, risks, and health side-effects. Space heaters cause 25,000 home fires each year and 6,000 emergency room visits. As a personal injury attorney, every day I am personally involved in fighting for those who are injured as a result of the negligence of others or of products that expose us to unnecessary risks. Injuries from home accidents and household products can be severe and life-changing.
Space heaters are involved in 79% of home heating fire deaths. The consensus among experts on the topic recommend a number of ‘common-sense’ safety tips that can limit your risks when using a portable space heater.
√ The 5-foot Rule. All heaters need space. Half of fatal home space heater fires started because something was too close to the heater and ignited. Keep heaters and things that can burn at least five feet apart. In addition to a ‘kid- free’ zone be sensitive to the elderly who may stumble or are prone to falls. Keep heaters away from things like upholstered furniture, curtains, clothing, mattress, bedding, paper, and plastic bags.
√ Keep Your Eyes Open. Never leave an operating space heater unattended. Always turn off a portable space heater when you go to sleep or leave the room.
√ Certified Testing. Only use a space heater that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
√ Stable Footing. Stand your space heater on a stable, flat floor so it won’t tip- over from a passer-by or from vibration while operating. Use a portable space heaters with an automatic shut off if they’re tipped over.
√ Power Connection. Plug the heater power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord. Inspect the power cord for cracks or damage, broken plugs or loose connections. Replace before using.
Regular use of portable space heaters isn’t a healthy way of living when it is cold. While electric heaters warm the air inside the house, they significantly reduce the important moisture content of the air, making it dry. Toxic Air. Breathing dry air leads to respiratory disorders like asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis and also nosebleeds due to dried membranes. Dry air also dries out mucus membranes, thereby trapping dust and infection- causing agents – making you more prone to infections.
Skin & Eye Irritation. Lack of moisture in the air is also harmful to your skin. Dry skin is a common occurrence during winter. Infants and babies suffer even more with possible damage to their sensitive skin and delicate nasal passages. Lack of moisture in the air has also been shown to evaporate tears from the eyes, making it difficult to maintain the delicate balance required for healthy eyes.
Immune System Impact. As your body adapts to the heat from the space header, exposure to outside cold temperatures could make it more difficult for your immune system to cope – leading to colds and flu. Solutions. There are some steps to improve moisture level in your home when using a space heater.
1. Place bowls filled with water at various places in your house.
2. Keep sipping warm or hot fluids like soups or teas to keep your nasal passages, airways and throats moist.
3. Use natural moisturizers to keep your skin hydrated and healthy.
4. Dress appropriately and don’t depend on a heater solely. This will help your body to adjust to the season and your immune system to work properly.
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