Frequent power cuts are increasing the popularity of gas geysers in the national capital region, but doctors are finding it a source of brain damage.
Doctors from the department of neurology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, recently published a data in Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, bringing to light the hazardous effects of the use of gas geysers in domestic settings.
Over a period of two years -- 2008-2011 -- the department saw 26 cases of epileptic seizures while bathing in an ill-ventilated bathroom with a functional gas geyser. “All these cases had similar symptoms of nausea, headache, vomiting, fits, etc. We may have not noticed the link but one of the patients was curious to know if it could be because of the gas geyser,” said Dr Chandrashekhar Agrawal, chairperson, department of neurology at the hospital, who is also a co-author of the study.
“This problem is not new, we have been seeing these cases for long but the only thing is this time we thought of compiling the data to create awareness,” said Dr Agrawal.
The neurology department of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) also sees such cases, especially during winters.
“We do see patients about once in two months mostly in winter when there are frequent power cuts; most cases I’ve seen are from Gurgaon,” said Dr Manjari Tripathi, additional professor, department of neurology, AIIMS, who specializes in treating epilepsy cases.
People put gas geysers in bathrooms. If the bathroom is not ventilated and the geyser which uses gas and burns to generate heat is on, the person consumes oxygen and then carbon monoxide forms in excess, leading to hypoxia and seizures and unconsciousness.
“We advise a gas heater to be put off before entering a bath and have good ventilation in the bathroom. Also, these cases can get misdiagnosed as seizures and be wrongly treated,” she said.
In some cases, there may be permanent damage to a part of the brain, but most cases can be treated with anti-seizure medicine for a few months. More than five minutes exposure to the gas can be enough to suffer from dizziness. “It is a very useful gadget but one should be very careful while using it. The manual must be carefully read as it has all the safety details listed,” said Dr Agrawal.