beware it can be quite harmful
I sit here on the couch writing this latest Daily Gasp, doing just that, gasping. I have had light chills and fever, body aches, a nasty headache and a most unusual sore throat, for the past 48 hours. All due to wood smoke.
But I’m ahead of the story. Let me take you back to where it started; Why and How I got here and most important, HOW to prevent the same situation for reoccurring.
Over the past couple of months, we have been noticing a disturbing smell in our house. The smell of hot dust. You know the smell. The one you get when you turn on a lamp – that has set undisturbed for some time – after the bulb warms, the collected dust heats us creating a distinctive odor without any smoke or flame. Because the odor diffuses quickly it is very difficult to track down the origin.
Each time I sensed the odor – and I did so quickly – I would rush between outlets, feeling each cover and equally feeling all the areas of wall around each outlet for warmth. Nothing. Grabbing up power strips to smell and touch. Nothing. Only the pungent smell. The more we sought to find the source, we were able to determine that the source had to be downstairs, but that was as far as our investigation went.
A most annoying and frightening mystery. The premonition of the condo burning was not pleasant.
We awoke as normal on Friday morning last, to a cooler than normal house. The furnace, we found out, was not working. I called and was able to get a repairman out that morning. After a couple of hours of troubleshooting and repair, he announced, ‘it should work’.. And it did all day Friday. But again we awoke Saturday morning to no heat.
It wouldn’t have been too bad, had the weather report held with what was forecast at midweek. But, alas, it didn’t! The weather and temperature took a very seasonally strange turn toward COLD! Wind. Temperatures with highs in the low-20’s and windy, made for a rather miserable time.
We were not going to be home, so we just ignored the cooling house and figured we could ‘hold-out’ until Monday; in order to keep from paying for ‘weekend HVAC repairs’. Besides – we had the little fireplace to ‘knock-the-chill-0ff’. It wasn’t a problem since we’d it for the last couple of years – off-and-one – with no negative problems. Cool ..! We’ll just light-up the fireplace and enjoy some romantic, old-time comfort.
Famous last words ….
The Turn of the Tide
I did just that. Prepared the fire, as I had done many dozens of times before. I grew up on a farm. For years we heated with wood heat, from a stove. My parents moved from the farm and built a new house with a fireplace and woodstove insert. I knew all about building a fire and what wood to use. What I was not prepared for was the result of inhaling wood smoke as an MCS sufferer.
The fire started and the heat was rolling out. Ohhhh! It was nice and welcome. For roughly 6 hours we enjoyed the familiar and cozy warmth of a wood fire. Then the wind began to blow. By 10 PM the wind was blowing about 20 mph with gusts to 40+. That was when I noticed the puffing of smoke out of the fireplace doors.
This wasn’t something of too much concern, since most fireplaces have ‘backdraft’ problems when wind gusts get too strong. Past experience told me it would be ‘smokey smelling’ but that would dissipate rapidly and then we’d be back to normal.
But it didn’t work that way. Shortly after the smoke began to roll out the doors, I began to become quite congested. Soon after a headache began. Within an hour I was into full-blown MCS FRAGG! Fibromyalgia. Chills. Headache. Cough. Rash. Foggy-brain. The whole shebang!
By this time I had managed to extinguish the fire. But the damage was done. And we had to open the windows and doors in an attempt to air the condo out. Well after about 2 hours, my wife could no longer stand the cold and we had to shut the windows. For her the smell of smoke was gone. For me it was imprinted upon my olfactory like an indelible tattoo. The saga had begun.
Sunday I awoke more in the realm of the dead-walking, than in the living. I could barely move – and chose not to. Bedridden except for mandatory bathroom trips. My wife was both angry and perplexed. We had never encountered this reaction before. And what were we going to do, if the furnace could not be fixed soon and the temps -constantly falling- were not looking to warm up for several days.
Showering would have been an exercise in masochistic insanity. But since my wife had to go to work on Monday, we needed heat! But the fireplace was a total ‘NO WAY’. I was in bed all day; in and out of a state of pain induced confusion. I was no help and going south fast.
Fortunately the HVAC pros were able to come early on Monday and finally fix the furnace. As it turned out the cause of the problem was ‘factory-based’ – so the repair was covered under warranty. But that was the only good part of the whole ordeal.
I don’t know how I will react to wood smoke from this point forward, but I can say for sure, I will be avoiding it at all cost.
— UPDATE 04.20.13 —-
Over the past month I have encountered wood smoke: a) outside the condo from others burning wood in their fireplaces; b) while walking; c) driving down the road – in each case, the reactions – thought not as severe, have all had the same results: it make me sick. Just the slightest smell is all it takes to set the MCS FRAGG into motion. In this case.. it may be a pseudo-MCS; smell induced memory, in which neuroplasticity is at play; that is the true culprit. Regardless, the smell-of-woodsmoke induces an MCS FRAGG reaction. I have not allowed myself to go far enough into a FRAGG incident to see it the results equal that night with the fireplace. And frankly, I am not that self-experimental and don’t have that much desire to know. It happened once – and that was enough for me.
More ‘casual-causal’ observations will be needed to draw a full conclusion. In the meantime… I am avoiding ALL wood smoke.
Just one more thing, which I enjoyed before-MCS, I have now lost. MCS is a tragedy to life.