By Dr. Devon Ballard, Sherwood Family Medical Center-A Baptist Health Affiliate
Do you ever clean your Christmas tree before putting it up? Or think about carbon monoxide poisoning before building a fire? We want you to stay healthy and safe this holiday season with help from Baptist Health’s Dr. Devon Ballard, with Sherwood Family Medical Center.
Let’s start with carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is the number one cause of poisoning fatalities in the U.S. It is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and does not immediately show symptoms. Your home could be filled with levels of carbon monoxide so dangerous that you could die before you realized it. But, it is completely preventable. Make sure that you have operational carbon monoxide detectors in your home, especially if you have a fireplace or wood stove; it could save your life. Some of the symptoms of breathing dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are fatigue, headaches, confusion, and nausea, but these signs may come too late. Children are most susceptible to brain and heart damage or death from breathing carbon monoxide.
Fireplaces can be a source for carbon monoxide, in addition to fumes from cars, gasoline, household equipment, and wood burning appliances. Also, various chimney problems can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide gases. Remember to have your chimney cleaned.
Most people think of spring when they think about asthma and allergies, but the holidays are a trigger as well – and the Christmas tree is a big one.
Both real and fake trees can trigger asthma attacks. Real trees harbor a host of allergens that are known to trigger asthma, including pollen and mold spores from the summer. Certain species of trees and their sap contain known asthma triggers. Artificial trees that are stored year after year, often in dusty attics or damp basements, usually harbor dust and mold spores, which are very common asthma triggers. In addition, bugs and rodents can get into the trees, and certain bugs and droppings can also be an asthma trigger.
To avoid allergens that could trigger asthma attacks, use a leaf blower and blow off live trees before bringing them inside. If no leaf blower is available, rinse the tree off and allow it to dry outdoors. This will remove most allergens before they can enter the home. Artificial trees should be unpacked outside and each piece should either be rinsed or vacuumed off before bringing it into the main living area to eliminate the possible asthma triggers that are packed in the tree. If asthma symptoms persist, it may be time for a new, higher quality tree.
The cold weather associated with the holiday season is also a common asthma trigger. Cold weather is often very dry, and the combination of the two excites receptors in the lungs, causing asthma attacks. Asthmatic lungs definitely prefer warm, moist climates. If someone with asthma is going to be outside, they should limit the amount of time they spend outdoors and cover their mouth and nose, either with a scarf or face mask that traps moisture and warmth.
We hope these tips will help keep you safe, healthy and happy this winter!