Cold winter days can often leave you wishing for warmer temperatures, which is why a cozy, warm fireplace can often be an excellent addition to a living space. However, many new parents have started worrying about the possible adverse effects that the fireplace’s smoke and fumes may have on a baby’s health.
It is not always safe to use a fireplace with a newborn baby. A fireplace releases smoke that could build up inside a close room and potentially harm the newborn. Closed-off fireplaces, such as gas fireplaces, are much safer than wood-burning fireplaces, which have an open fire.
In the following sections, I’ll delve more into how the smoke from a fireplace can adversely affect your baby’s health due to its toxic fumes. I’ll also explain some ways to reduce the risk of fireplace hazards on newborns, as well as different techniques to reduce poisonous smoke build-up in a room.
How Fireplace Smoke Affects Newborns
Newborns below one year of age have very fragile lungs, and it has been proven that up to 80 percent of a baby’s alveoli, which is the part of the lungs that filters the air, develop after birth. This means the baby’s lungs are still forming and hence are susceptible to any form of air pollution.
Additionally, newborns breathe faster and are more susceptible to air pollutants such as these smoke and ash particles that could find their way into their lungs and block off developing alveoli.
There have been recorded cases of bronchitis, a respiratory disorder caused by smoke inhalation occurring in children due to wood smoke. In severe cases, the affected newborns have had to be hospitalized.
Symptoms of Smoke Inhalation in Newborns
The newborn may start developing cough and wheezing symptoms in the months that the fireplace is most in use. There is also a higher chance of the newborn developing lung-related illnesses like nose allergies.
And if the baby is already asthmatic, smoke inhalation could worsen it by preventing the lungs from developing properly, leading to a more severe case of asthma later in life.
Even healthy babies with no asthmatic predisposition could develop asthma later on due to poorly formed lungs resulting from excessive smoke inhalation.
Are Adults Affected As Much as Newborns by Fireplace Smoke Inhalation?
Adults are not easily affected by the same level of smoke inhalation that would be detrimental to a newborn. This is because our lungs have formed adequately over the years and have developed a tolerance for small amounts of smoke with low levels of concentration.
But notwithstanding, adults are still advised to prevent any amount of smoke that would affect a baby’s health as it could also have long-term effects on them.
How You Can Keep Your Newborn Safe From Fireplace Hazards
Here are some tips to keep your newborn safe from fireplace hazards:
- Make sure the chimney is clean and clear. This involves cleaning it before bringing a newborn home or before the winter months when the fireplace will be most in use.
- Ventilation is essential and cannot be overemphasized. Cracking open a window will fill the room with fresh air and give the smoke a secondary route of escape, significantly reducing the concentration of smoke and ash in a room.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors at a different point in the house to alert you to unsafe gas levels in a room. Also, keep one close to the fireplace and set it at a low tolerance setting, allowing you to be alerted to even the slightest increase in carbon monoxide levels.
How a Fireplace Releases Smoke and Toxic Fumes
Many people have become so used to choosing fireplaces as an alternative heat source that we sometimes forget that burning wood releases smoke.
If you’re sitting by a fireplace, gazing into the flames and getting caught up in the warmth of it all, you might not even notice the smell of burning wood and smoke that would be present.
When a fireplace is lit, it incinerates the wood particles creating fire and heat and releasing smoke into the air.
Be that as it may, smoke isn’t the only substance that fills the air when wood burns. Tiny particles of ash and dust also accompany the smoke, and these can fill the air, finding their way into our lungs as we inhale.
One of the most dangerous elements that can be found in your fireplace’s smoke is carbon monoxide, a toxic product of burning carbon that can cause lung poisoning and may even lead to death in high concentrations.
But in most cases, a chimney and ventilation commonly dissipate the fumes and reduce the chances of carbon monoxide build-ups.
Carbon monoxide and generally smoke poisoning aren’t commonly associated with fireplaces, but some deciding factors could cause a dangerous build-up.
The Fireplace May Have a Blocked Chimney
It’s one thing for a fireplace to release smoke as it burns, as in most cases, the smoke goes unnoticed because it finds its way out of the room, thereby being unable to reach harmful levels of concentration.
However, a blocked chimney could result in the smoke being diverted while looking for a means to escape. This blockage could be due to fallen tree branches, dead animals, or as a result of continuous build-up going uncleaned.
There May Be No Ventilation
Having a clean chimney doesn’t guarantee that there will be no build-up of smoke in a room, as there are other factors that could cause the smoke to be diverted back into the house.
Poor ventilation can cause poor air circulation in a room. Even when a chimney is clean and blockage-free, there could be a backdraft that would blow wind into the opening of the chimney, thereby pushing smoke into the house.
If such a situation occurs and there is no secondary source of ventilation, then that smoke would accumulate in the house.
Overall, the safety level of using a fireplace with a newborn in the house depends on the precautions taken to ensure the baby is not unnecessarily exposed to harmful toxic fumes for long periods of time. If these precautions are taken, keeping your baby warm near a lit fireplace can be safer than you’d think.