Fall is here, which means candle lovers everywhere are stocking up on their favorite candles to make their homes beautiful and cozy.
But even though candles are calming and help people add ambiance to their homes, there are a few things to watch out for.
Healthcare providers say that in their experience, candles and their negative effects on health are too much. Generally, most people are nice and enjoy the ambiance.
The biggest threat, they said, is the risk of starting a fire, which can lead to burns or even death.
“If we think about things around the holidays, a candle near a dry Christmas tree or curtains,” said Dr. Taryn Travis, a burn surgeon at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “It definitely happens every year.”
Find out more about how candles affect health below.
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Can candles cause respiratory issues?
Dr. Andrew Stiehm is a pulmonologist at St. Paul, Minnesota working at several Allina Health hospitals.
He said in general, candles don’t have a “big impact” on most people and “concerns are probably overblown by some in the industry.”
Candles have three parts that may cause some to have health concerns, he said: wicks, dye or paint and candle ingredients.
Some wicks have lead in them. When burned, lead can lead to lead poisoning or lead poisoning. In the United States, candle makers stopped making candles with lead wicks because of this concern.
“It is still possible to buy candles from other countries that contain lead,” Stiehm said.
Paints and dyes that are used to make them can be carcinogens or chemicals that cause cancer.
“These are very small amounts of chemicals and have not been linked to cancer concerns or any significant studies but it could be someone who is very cautious about their cancer risk or maybe has cancer in remission.”
The substance of the candle in itself may also cause concern for some, he said.
“There are some concerns that paraffins release more formaldehyde than other candles and again, someone out of an abundance of caution might want to avoid high paraffin with candles and instead go for more natural ingredients,” he says.
Some people can also be allergic to fragrances emitted from candles, whether they are natural or artificial.
“There may be natural pumpkin flavoring or artificial pumpkin flavoring,” he said. “You may be allergic to one and not the other … let experience be your guide.”
Candles can lead to fires, injuries, said the burn surgeon
Travis, from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, said that flowing clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, skirts and dresses can catch fire when people walk. It can even happen on stovetops.
Doctors also see issues like this during religious holidays where candles are an important part of the celebration, he said.
“Once your clothes are on fire … the heat gets to your skin and it’s going to be difficult for people to get the clothes off, especially the elderly or people with disabilities,” Travis said.
You know those canned air fresheners? Keep an eye on them.
Another common thing that can be harmful when combined with candles is any aerosolized spray.
Spraying air fresheners near candles is not a good idea because they often contain alcohol, which is highly flammable.
Anything aerosolized can cause candles or other open flames to ignite and cause house fires, Travis said.
Nail polish remover + candle = dangerous combo
At least once a year, Travis sees patients planning wonderful, relaxing spa days at home and in the emergency room.
They gathered their manicure tools, poured a glass of wine, lit a candle and suddenly, there was a huge flame.
“Many nail treatment products are very, very flammable and even if they are close to a candle, in many cases in our burn center, they cause absolutely devastating injuries,” he said.
From there, clothing, hair and accessories can catch fire, causing “catastrophic, devastating injuries,” he said. “The people who usually do it are usually young women in their 20s who are having a great weekend or relaxing day or night at home … Their lives are forever changed.”
It’s easy to forget these things, she said, adding that she had to remind her husband not to light a candle near her recently when he was cleaning her house.
What types of burns can candles cause?
Travis says in general, there are levels of burnout that people can get:
- First degree burn – Basically, this is a sunburn that is red, dry and very painful and can be treated with pain relievers and moisturizers.
- Third degree burn – A burn that covers the entire thickness of the skin and requires surgery and hospitalization in many cases
- Second degree burn – Everything between a first and third degree burn (some have blisters and pain but can be managed with focused wound care)
Third-degree burns are the deepest type of burn people can sustain, Travis said. They almost always require surgery.
Surgeries used to treat burns include skin grafting and many days in the hospital.
“And then in the long term, we’re talking about a litany of things that patients have to deal with sometimes for the rest of their lives,” Travis said. “There is a lot of scarring after any kind of burn that isn’t very superficial.”
At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, doctors focus heavily on scar reconstruction and sometimes use laser surgery to treat scars.
There are also rehabilitation therapy patients who can go through, he said.
“Depending on where someone’s burn is, if it’s on or near a joint … say someone’s elbow or shoulder … it can be significant for the rest of the patient’s life,” he said. , adding that they may find it difficult to move. and doing the normal activities they used to be able to do.
“It can be a split-second thing that happens that hurts people but forever changes the course of their lives,” Travis said.
Are some candles safer than others?
Experts say that it is still possible to enjoy candles without risk thanks to products like LED candles.
Calling them “pretty lifelike,” Travis said the flameless candles are designed to look like the real thing but are made of plastic and other materials. They have fake wicks and some have fabrics that can flow, dance and appear like flames.
They are mostly used to jazz up restaurants, he said.
And while the products don’t have fragrances like real candles, candle lovers can often get air fresheners to create that effect.
“For people who are not interested in that, the next suggestion, I think, is candles inside an enclosure,” he said, adding that candles can be placed inside the glass.
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What should I do if my candle catches fire?
Travis said there are a few things people should keep in mind if they have a candle in their home that could catch fire.
It’s important to have a working smoke detector and a fire extinguisher, he said.
Take a fire extinguisher the next time you go to the store and make sure you know how to use it, he said.
“When a fire is out of control, the best thing to do is to get yourself out of harm’s way,” he said. “The old thing they taught us when we were kids, ‘Stop, drop a tire,’ is very important. You want the flame to extinguish itself, not run, because that will feed the flame. “
And once you’re out of harm’s way, if you have a burn of more than a quarter, go to a burn center, he said.
“We felt there was no burn too small for us to take care of,” he said.
Stiehm, from Allina Health, emphasized that fire hazards are more of an issue to worry about and recommends keeping candles in well-ventilated areas.
Make sure there are no things hanging down, he says, and keep the wicks no longer than a quarter of an inch.
And again, he emphasized that there are no serious reports of candles causing significant respiratory health effects.
“We’re not seeing more heart attacks or COPD attacks or concerns along those lines,” he said. “It’s not something for the average person to worry too much about. For sensitive people… perhaps approach with a little caution.”