Safety Check: Do You Have a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

Friday, November 21, 2014 12:23 PM comments (0)


We’re all busy and keeping tabs on the safety of our homes often falls by the wayside when calendars fill up quickly with day-to-day activities like getting the kids to school on time and shuttling them back and forth to practices and events. But, it’s incredibly important to make time to ensure the safety of your home.

Some household risks are easy to spot but there are some you can’t see at all. Carbon monoxide is very dangerous and because the gas is odorless and colorless, it's hard to detect without proper monitoring. Now that frigid temperatures have settled in for the winter and furnaces are working overtime, it’s even more important to make sure your family is well-protected from carbon monoxide poisoning.  

Jerrold Leikin, MD, Medical Toxicologist, shares five household safety requirements:

  • Get a UL-approved carbon monoxide detector. First and foremost, if you don’t already have a carbon monoxide monitor installed in your home, do so immediately. If you do have one, be sure to check and change the batteries frequently. You should also plan to test it on a regular basis.
  • Install your detector properly. Detectors should be placed away from windows and drafty areas. Outside air can offset readings and reduce effectiveness. You should also avoid installing a detector in your bathroom, over your oven range or any another high-humidity area.
  • Place all detectors within several feet of sleeping areas. It is recommended to have a detector on every level of your home. A basement detector should be installed at the top of the stairs.
  • Get your furnace and other gas appliances checked out annually. Having an expert evaluate your appliances can help identify leaks and other health hazards. Make sure you’re using appliances correctly; outdoor grills should never be used inside your home.
  • Know the symptoms and act fast if you suspect you may have poisoning. Some of these symptoms include dizziness, headache, nausea and confusion. Symptoms may not always be present and/or may not be distinguishable. If several members of the household notice similar symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Do you have a carbon monoxide detector in your home? How frequently do you check it?



Drug Facts: Molly, or MDMA

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 2:12 PM comments (0)

drugsMolly, a supposedly pure form of the drug MDMA, is seeing a spike in use among young people. Users of Molly see it as a safe, inexpensive drug with few long-term negative side effects, like addiction. Many celebrities, including most recently Miley Cyrus, have quite literally been singing its praises.

But Molly, known previously in the 1980s and ‘90s as Ecstasy, is an illegal drug and it comes with many risks. A mind-altering drug that is a stimulant and hallucinogenic, it boosts both serotonin and dopamine levels in the body. Users of the drug report feelings of happiness, euphoria, empathy, decreased anxiety and fear, as well as enhanced sensory perception, which makes it a popular dance club drug.

Jerrold Leikin, MD, Medical Toxicology and Emergency Medicine at NorthShore, dispels some of the myths surrounding Molly:

  • Myth: It is safer than other drugs.
    Truth: A stimulant, like speed or amphetamines, it comes with many of the same dangers. It can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. It can cause tremors, cramps, nausea, chills, blurred vision and dehydration, especially if combined with hours of dancing. High doses of the drug in the bloodstream can increase one’s risk of seizure and heartbeat irregularity.  There have been cases of brain bleeding requiring surgery after use of Molly.  It has also been known to cause hyperthermia, or a rapid increase in the body’s temperature, which can cause life-threatening heat stroke. 
  • Myth: There are no after effects or long-term negative side effects.
    Truth: As the drug wears off and serotonin levels drop rapidly, users report a depression that can last for several days and range from mild to severe. And while prolonged use eventually begins to diminish users' highs, which means a relatively low risk of physical addiction, it also means that many users take larger doses to achieve a high, increasing the risk of overdose. Over time, repeated use may cause memory loss. Bleeding from the brain can be deadly, and brain surgery to prevent death carries many potential risks and complications that may result in permanent damage and neurologic dysfunction.
  • Myth: Unlike Ecstasy, Molly is pure.
    Truth: Molly is short for “molecule” and as such, it is a myth that all Molly is Ecstacy and is pure.  Those involved in the drug trade make different molecules from MDMA and call them “Molly” to evade governmental regulation and law enforcement.  Other chemicals are sold under the name “Molly” as well.  This results in a mixture of different molecules with unknown short-term and long-term effects that have not been fully studied by scientists. Additionally, it could be cut with potentially hazardous chemicals or it could be a completely different drug altogether.  There is no way for the user to know what is actually in that powder or pill.

How do you talk to your kids about drugs?


Know Your Poison – Safeguard your Home

Monday, January 14, 2013 3:09 PM comments (0)

Poison ExposureIt’s easy to overlook the potential dangers that everyday products in our home may have on our health. We get used to storing cleaning supplies in lower cabinets, leaving toothpaste out within reach and letting our medicine cabinets fill up—often not thinking about the potential risks many of these products can pose to our families. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the vast majority (nearly 90%) of all exposures occur at home.

Jerrold Leikin, MD, Medical Toxicologist at NorthShore, provides a short list of some of the most dangerous household products and things that lead to exposure:

  • Cleaning supplies – Some of the most common offenders include: dishwasher detergent, bathroom cleaners, bleach and ammonia-based cleaners
  • Cosmetics – Perfume, nail polish remover, mouthwash and aftershave
  • Plants – It is not recommended to ingest any type of household plant, but the following may cause more extreme reactions: mistletoe, ivy, iris, holly, daffodil, etc. For a full list of poisonous plants, visit the Poison Center’s website.
  • Drugs – Prescription and over-the-counter medications, including sunscreen, lotions and insect repellents

Dr. Leikin recommends the following to help reduce your risk of exposure:

  • Use labels to mark which products are a poison danger.
  • Store products out of the reach of children and pets, and/or lock cabinets.
  • Discard unused items. Rather than stock up on cleaners and medications, only buy what you need to use. This will help limit the amount of potentially hazardous items in your home.
  • Install a carbon monoxide and smoke detector in your home. If you already have these in your home, check them frequently to be sure they are working.  It is also a good idea to regularly check that all gas appliances are in working order.

If you or someone you know has been exposed to a poison, call the Illinois Poison Center immediately at 1.800.222.1222. For more information about poison prevention and exposures, visit the NorthShore Medical Toxicology website.

How do you safeguard your home to reduce poison exposure?

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