Know Killer Ravana in your Home : Gas Geyser A Silent Killer

Dr. Shailesh Darji DM Neurology
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Gas Geyser
Gas Geyser Syndrome

             Just for Social Awareness about Hazards of Gas Geysers.

A case vignette: Based on Real patient presentation:

     Today seen one 55 years female patient staying with her husband, only two family members as their children shifted to USA. While her husband left for some work, she went to take bath. As there are only two old aged persons staying alone in house, they never lock bathroom from inside as a safety protocol. She switched on geyser and waited for hot water and after few minutes she opened tap to collect hot water in bucket, keeping geyser “on” for about next ten minutes. Suddenly she felt headache, nauseating and breathing difficulty and collapse but somehow door got little opened as not locked from inside, she regains some consciousness afterwards and get herself out of the bathroom dragging by legs and went near sofa. She had vomiting and she felt severe burning sensation over both legs and feet. After few minutes she got little better and somehow managed to call her husband. She looked at her feet which got burnt probably due to hot water spillage over it. Her husband soon arrived and got her shifted to ICU under general surgeon for burns.

     Surgeon presumed that she might have stroke so after dressing of both lower limbs burns he got her CT scan brain done but it suggested normal study. She was loaded with antiplatelets and statin and kept under observation, as relatives started murmuring and CT scan was normal surgeon could not explain the event so neurologist was called for explaining the mystery of sudden unconsciousness (no H/o vascular risk factors), fall, burns and transient amnesia of the event. Just after some briefing I needed to ask only one question? Was there gas geyser in the bathroom and when last and how often it got its service done. As I was cracking the puzzle she mumbled that yes its "gas geyser"!!!. And not serviced since last five years but its working fine. Still to clarify a rarest possibility of posterior circulation stroke/TIA, MRI with stroke protocol and 2d echo was done which finally ended mystery in favor of gas geyser “carbon monoxide poisoning” by showing no any evidence in favor of vascular event. So friends and colleagues now winter is coming so always keep one point in history to ask h/o gas geyser usage in such unusual and unexplained event.

A trend towards Gas Geyser is increasing due to cost effectiveness

     A great bargain is always priorities in families living in urban and metro cities like Ahmedabad. Power bills account for a considerable percentage of the monthly household budget, and one such effective gadget that can cut down the same is the gas geyser. The gas geyser has a simple mechanism to heat water for bathing purposes, the LPG gas outlet is connected to an enclosed burner which heats the inlet water, giving hot water in few seconds.

Water heaters or silent killers?

     But gas geysers can become silent killers. The toxic gas “carbon monoxide” with no color or odor is emitted during combustion in the LPG-fueled geyser, and is a silent killer. Within minutes of being exposed to the gas, the victims are poisoned and rendered unconscious and can lead to permanent brain damage and even to fatalities. Oxygen depletion in “ill-ventilated bathroom” results in the production of carbon monoxide, so if one properly uses it than such problems can be avoided. We can continue to use the geyser, with all possible precautions as follows.

Prevention always takes precedence over everything else:

     The geyser should not be switched on after locking the bathroom from inside, ventilation should be kept open and gap should be maintained between two people taking bath to avoid increase in the carbon monoxide density. Gas geyser unit should be placed outside the bathroom with a hose of hot water going inside. These precautions can decrease the incidence, mortality, and morbidity due to accidental CO poisoning.

Again, please follow these guidelines for proper usage of Gas Geyser:

1. Do not lock the bathroom door and then turn on the heater. It would be best to let the bucket fill with hot water, turn off the geyser switch, and only then close the door.

2. Try to keep the ventilation open.

3. Try to have time gaps between two people taking bath. Many people taking bath one after the other increases the carbon monoxide density in the bathroom. This could be dangerous for the last person taking bath.

4. Gas geyser unit should be placed outside the bathroom with a hose of hot water going inside.

5. Get the burner and the whole unit checked regularly for any leaks/blocks.

6. According to a study conducted by Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), the gas geyser switch should ideally be at such a height that it can be switched off easily.

7.Initially, exposure to carbon monoxide is most commonly accompanied by early symptoms like headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue and then later confusion followed by quick fainting. So with early alarming symptoms one should try to find out possible carbon monoxide exposure.

Being aware of the signs of possible CO poisoning:

     It's  very important to be aware of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and to look out for warning signs. You should suspect carbon monoxide poisoning if:

1. Other people in your house fall ill with similar symptoms while using bathroom.

2. Your symptoms disappear when you go away – for example, on holiday – and return when you come back and using your home bathroom.

3. Your symptoms tend to be seasonal – for example, if you get headaches more often during the winter when the gas geyser is used more frequently for need of hot water.

4. Your pets also become ill when using bathroom for bath etc.

Other possible clues of a carbon monoxide leak include:

1. Black, sooty marks on the front covers of gas fires

2. Sooty or yellow/brown stains on or around boilers or fires

3. Smoke building up in rooms due to a faulty duct for gas

4. Suspect incomplete combustion of the fuel, with a gas geyser this will be indicated by a yellow or orange flame instead of a healthy blue one.

Treatment for CO poisoning :

1. Move the victim to an open area.

2. Open up all windows and let fresh air come in.

3. Remember, No home therapy is available for CO poisoning.

4. Seek immediate medical help. Do not delay.

Comments and Suggestions are invited....Pl spread it for benefits of your relatives and friends....