Now that the temperatures are plummeting, more people are turning to space heaters to keep warm, which can be dangerous if they are not used correctly.
In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 25,000 residential fires are associated with the use of space heaters every year.
“I think it’s very important for people to be careful when they use space heaters. They’re necessary, they’re safe, but like with everything else, they need to be used properly in order to be safe,” said Baruch Fertel, MD, emergency medicine physician for Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Fertel said if you have to use a space heater, make sure it’s on a low, flat surface. Some brands even sell ones that have a tip-over safety switch that will automatically shut off if it gets knocked over.
Space heaters should also be set up at least three feet away from any flammable items, like curtains or blankets. Dr. Fertel said carbon monoxide poisoning is another concern if using a fuel-burning space heater. That specific style should only be set up in a large, well-ventilated space, certainly not in a bedroom or other living area.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur while warming up your vehicle as well.
“If you have an attached garage, never, never start the car without the door being fully open to the garage to allow venting and to allow some of the gases to escape,” he advised.
Dr. Fertel said signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can include dull headaches, weakness, dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath. He emphasizes the importance of having a working carbon monoxide detector and smoke detector in your home, both can be life-saving.