Health Scan: Purim: A festival of fun and danger

Hospital emergency rooms get 3.5 times as many burns cases before and during Purim than during the rest of the year.

purim 88 224 (photo credit: Jerusalem Post Archives)
purim 88 224
(photo credit: Jerusalem Post Archives)
Purim is a holiday that makes the whole Hebrew month of Adar joyous. But there can be tears when children lose their sight or hearing, or suffer severe burns as a result of illegal explosives, spray foam and flammable costumes. Beterem, the National Center for Child Safety and Health, reports that hospital emergency rooms get 3.5 times as many burns cases before and during Purim than during the rest of the year. Children suffer second-and-third-degree burns on their hands, face, neck and knees when playing with fireworks, cap pistols and other illegal explosives sold in stores and kiosks. Beterem calls on the local authorities to enforce the law more strictly. In addition, toys that look like authentic weapons may not be sold according the law. Caps that explode may not be stored in pockets, as friction can cause them to go off. No equipment for Purim should be purchased at a kiosk or other unrecognized point of sale. Parents should not buy Purim costumes that lack the markings of the Israel Standards Institute. A short costume worn close to the body is preferable to long and broad ones that can catch fire. It is best to avoid - in both handmade and store-bought costumes - inflammable material like cotton wool, carton and feathers, anything on the head or face (such as masks) that obstructs the view of traffic, or shoelaces that can lead to strangling. The use of masks by any child under eight is not recommended; older children should not wear marks without breathing holes. Wigs, masks and other such accessories should be taken off when children are active in playgrounds. Makeup that lacks Health Ministry approval could be toxic or cause skin reactions, and should be avoided. Magen David Adom reported that a 60-year-old woman from Ramat Gan lit her Shabbat candles recently with what she thought was an ordinary small candle; it turned out that it was a firecracker belonging to a child and caused burns on her hands. WATCH YOUR PEAS AND Qs A pea and a watermelon seed have been removed by Nahariya doctors from the lungs of a 58-year-old man and a seven-year-old boy who had inhaled them. The Western Galilee Government Hospital reported these incidents recently. Tiny bronchoscope cameras were used to identify the foreign objects. The man was hospitalized over the weekend in the intensive care unit, where the dried pea was delicately removed. The boy, who had suffered for eight months from a chronic cough and breathing problems and then seemed to improve, was brought to the hospital with pneumonia - relieved by removal of the seed. HEFTY WOMEN: LOSE WEIGHT BEFORE PREGNANCY Obese women who undergo bariatric surgery to reduce the size of their stomachs minimizes complications when they become pregnant, according to a study by gynecologists at Soroka University Medical Center and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba. Among the complications are gestational diabetes, hypertension during pregnancy, congenital defects, the birth of too-heavy fetuses, and the need to undergo cesarean deliveries. Prof. Eyal Sheiner and Dr. Adi Weintraub found that the risk of gestational diabetes alone drops by 60% when an obese woman has bariatric surgery before getting pregnant. He advised severely overweight women who want to get pregnant to lose weight beforehand, and even to undergo surgery. SOME PLANTS ABSORB TOXIC GAS MDF, a synthetic wood from which inexpensive furniture is made, releases formaldehyde gas and is forbidden for use in children's furniture, as toddlers may nibble on it or breathe in the gas. But now, researchers in South Korea have identified two plants that can remove most of MDF's formaldehyde from the air within four hours. According to UPI, Kwang Jin Kim of Seoul's National Horticultural Research Institute says formaldehyde is also contained in new building materials as well as carpeting, curtains, plywood and adhesives. As the gas is emitted from these sources, it causes poor air quality, which can lead to "multiple chemical sensitivity" and "sick-building syndrome." The researchers used the Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina) and Fatsia japonica, an evergreen shrub, in three configurations (whole, roots-only with the leafy portion cut off, and stem and leaves exposed with below-ground portion sealed off). Equal amounts of formaldehyde were pumped into containers holding each type of plant. The study, published in the Journal of American Society for Horticultural Science, found complete plants removed about 80 percent of the formaldehyde within four hours. Control chambers pumped with the same amount of formaldehyde, but not containing any plants, decreased by 7.3 % during the day and 6.9% overnight within five hours. As the length of exposure increased, the amount of absorption decreased, which appeared to be due to the reduced concentration of the gas.