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Burning wood fireplace insert making my infant sick?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Craby, Mar 22, 2013.

  1. Craby

    Craby New Member

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    I recently installed a fireplace insert and soon after my 3 month old son came down with the croup, which sounds like a raspy seal bark cough. He has been sick for a few weeks and the pediatrician thinks it may be related to the fireplace insert.

    Is there any correlation? The insert is new so all the gaskets are sealed. The only smoke we get in the house is during reloads. The humidity is kept between 40-50%. We set up a thermometer in his room that records the daily low & high temps as usually 65* & 75*. Could this daily temperature swing be the reason he is not getting better? Maybe we should stop burning for 4 days & see if it makes a difference.

    Have you ever heard of this happening? I don't want to be afraid of using our new insert.

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  2. Xikar

    Xikar Member

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    I doubt it has anything to do with your stove or any other heat source you may be using. Croup is more of a viral or even sometimes bacterial condition that can be spread from person to person.
  3. gzecc

    gzecc Minister of Fire

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    Is it unusual for babies to get the croup. Babies are sick a lot. If your home is unhealthy because of your insert, you should realize this. Why do you get smoke in during reloads? How much smoke? Was this professionally installed?
  4. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    It might be allergies to the wood particulates that are floating in the air. After this cold spell is done in a day our two I would stop burning, or if you have another means of heat I would stop burning now. If you must keep burning I would run a hepa air cleaner in the same room as the stove to see if that helps.
  5. KaptJaq

    KaptJaq Minister of Fire

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    The first comments are part of a discussion you should have with your doctor...

    Most cases of croup are caused by viruses, usually parainfluenza virus, not smoke or irritants. Once the throat, voice box, etc are inflamed smoke and dust will not help and may slow down the recovery process. Temperature swings between 65° and 75° probably do not cause any problems as long as the child is properly dressed and does not get sweaty or chills.

    I would keep the little one in a room with a HEPA air filter. If you feel the stove is causing complications then shut it down for a few days to see what happens.

    The concern that this forum could address would be why are you getting smoke on reloads? Poor draft? Damp wood? Pulling the door open too fast for the reload starting a back-draft? Very tight house with negative pressure problems?

    Give us a little more information about the install and maybe we can help reduce the smoke problem.

    KaptJaq
    Joful and firefighterjake like this.
  6. Craby

    Craby New Member

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    I do get very minimal smoke when I reload, mostly because the humidifier fan is blowing at the insert & whisping some smoke around. I'll turn the humidifier off during reloads to see if this eliminates the smoke. The wood I have is below 20% MC & seasoned over (2) years. I do try to open the door slowly, but maybe I'm being a bit hasty. The house was built in 1948 & is not too tight.

    I installed the insert with a 15' liner to the top of the chimney. I cut the damper box so I didn't have to ovalize the liner. Roxul insulation is installed from above block off plate at damper, up the 8x13 terracotta flue, to the cap at top of chimney. I used the SS 6" collar at the bottom of the liner that the local hearth store sold me to connect to the insert so as far as I am aware I have it installed in a professional manner.

    My natural gas furnace central a/c system has an electrostatic air filter & is the other means of heating.

    I can borrow a hepa vacuum from my office that we use on jobsites for cleaning up construction debris in hopsitals & data centers. Is that the same as a HEPA air cleaner?

    Thanks for your help. I would like to rule out the insert as the the unlikely cause because it pains me to think of not using it.
  7. mellow

    mellow Resident Stove Connoisseur

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    Air cleaner and vacuum are way different, I would however try vacuuming everything with that hepa vacuum first then run the hepa air cleaner.
  8. charly

    charly Guest

    Check for mold along the baseboards etc in the babies room.. Our son was sick years ago and kept getting repeated ear infections-colds, on and off medicine.. for months.. Finally we figured he has to be exposed to something because as soon as he was off meds , he was sick again a week later.. pulled his dresser out in his room and behind it, the base board was covered with mold...cleaned his whole room with Clorox and water and he was never sick again.. It was an apartment -house we were renting at the time, son was about 6 months old at the time this all happened...
    begreen and Joful like this.
  9. Seanm

    Seanm Feeling the Heat

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    We had our stove installed in October and within 4 days of burning our son started rapid blinking. We were told it could be from the wood stove even though there was very little back puffing and the air in our home seemed clean. We stopped burning for two full weeks (painful) but his condition didnt change even with the stove off. It did go away on its own eventualy even with regular burning but I guess my point is that as a parent it is one of the easiest things to rule out simply by stopping burning for awhile. Our doctor said stop for a week but we went 2 just to put our minds at ease about the stove. At least that way you wont have that little voice in the back of your head that makes you wonder. Hope the little guy gets better soon.
    Joful likes this.
  10. Waulie

    Waulie Minister of Fire

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    Good advice for you so far. Although, I don't think it's particularly common for such a young infant to be sick often. That usually hits a bit later when they're off the boob and more exposed to other kids.

    I agree that you should stop burning for a bit just because it should be a relatively painless thing to do. See what happens. Note that if he does get better while you're not burning, it may or may not have anything to do with the stove. If he doesn't get better, that should pretty well rule out the stove.

    I have two young ones myself and the worst thing in the world is the helpless feeling when they're suffering and there's nothing you can do. I highly doubt your insert has anything to do with it, but there's a chance he is just highly sensitive/allergic so I would try to rule it out. I think it's one of the few things in your power to try. Pay heed to the mold comments from Charly as that's a common issue that you could also address.

    Rest assured, he'll get better and you'll have nothing to worry for a week or two. ;) Kids have a way of making us worry. Often.
  11. mfglickman

    mfglickman Minister of Fire

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    Croup is awful. My daughter slept on me 24/7 for 3 days when she had it as an infant. Exhausting as it was it was good to have her in contact.

    Be sure you know the signs when to go to the hospital. Google it, check drsears.com, just be sure you are familiar.

    Achoo allergy is a good company to talk to about hepa air cleaners and vacuums. We have 2 hepa vacs - a Dyson downstairs and small Miele upstairs. Great machines both.

    Good luck and I hope he is better soon.
  12. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    I doubt you can get a viral infection from an insert
    but something environmental can slow down recovery

    poorly installed insert maybe - which may be the ped's concern

    another place for mold is behind wallpaper - usually starts at seams - especially in a bathroom
    open a window for some fresh air ?
  13. Coog

    Coog Burning Hunk

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    Yes, wallpaper on the outside wall is a common location for mold to grow. It becomes a vapor barrier on the inside living space. As warm air moves to the cool interior, moisture will trap itself between the drywall and wall paper allowing mold spores to live and grow. This typically happens in the summer but the spores can stay dormant during the winter months. Not good, but unfortunately very common. Sick buildings are the worst but they can typically be resolved without to much trouble.

    Hope your little one gets better soon. I have a one month old. I think (and worry) about things like this. Part of being parent I guess.
  14. EvilRoySlade

    EvilRoySlade New Member

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    as you stated humidity is a big part, to high or low is where bacteria and viruses are happy. Croup can be gotten by and from anyone young or old, very young are more pronounced because their larynx is smaller. When it swells it is much more constricted than an adult, in adult you will just have a cough. We have HEPA's in each of our kids rooms, this is more for dust mites, dander, allergens that come from the wood etc. I have a hard time believing that the filter does a great job based on air changes of the HVAC competing with the HEPA, but in the end it makes you feel like you tried. Most time wood burning houses are way do dry and this is the biggest problem that occurs, well that and terrible install. It's all a balance and the best part is the more you make right, the more you realize is wrong.
  15. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Welcome to the forum Craby. What a name!

    One thing not mentioned so far is the wood. My question would be are you keeping wood inside the house? Or are you just bringing in enough at a time to load the stove? That could make a difference.

    In addition, you mentioned shutting off the humidifier and that is good. There are still a few other things you can do. First, before opening the door, turn the draft to full open and then wait a few minutes. Not seconds, but minutes. Then open the firebox door slowly at first (that first couple inches) then once past that just get it open and put the wood in.

    Do you have a ceiling fan? That too could be shut off. And while we are on this, make sure that fan is sucking air up rather than blowing the air down .

    Are you running a clothes drier? Exhaust fans by cooking stove and in bathrooms? Those are air robbers and would tend to want to draw air from the stove as you open the door.

    I hope these things work well for you and that baby gets healthy once again.
    Swedishchef likes this.
  16. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    Welcome to the forums!

    You have received great advice from some Pros on this forum. Unfortunately I can't add much to their comments. Backwoods Savage explained quite well how to reload with as little (if any) smoke rollout possible. I can only speak for my stove which has a bypass. Without opening my bypass, I always get some smoke rollout. My house is super airtight and I don't have enough draft with my setup.

    Hopefully your infant will get over this soon enough. Just remember: stoves usually don't harbour or produce viruses. But the air conditions in the house can extend the recovery time of someone infected with a virus/bacteria.

    Andrew
    Backwoods Savage likes this.
  17. HomeBruin

    HomeBruin New Member

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    Your doctor is likely incorrect about the insert, but I would be highly suspicious of your humidifier. If it is has a storage tank, all kinds of bad stuff grows inside them unless you are absolutely meticulous with sanitizing them routinely. I know of an adult who nearly died from respiratory complications that originated with a contaminated humidifier. Also, when handling ash, be super careful. On a sunny day, I can see stuff poofing airborn as I slide it off the shovel into the bucket, no matter how carefully/slowly I do it. Other than that, I have seen my share of children with croup. Not that big a deal as long as it is treated. For relief, bring him into the bathroom with the shower running for a steam bath.
    Heatsource likes this.
  18. brian89gp

    brian89gp Feeling the Heat

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    I would be more suspicious of the humidifier then the insert. All sorts of crazy stuff grows inside humidifiers and if you keep things too humid mold and dust mites start growing in the house.
    pen likes this.
  19. andybaker

    andybaker Feeling the Heat

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    There is some great advice here. I enjoyed reading it too. I have a problem getting enough humidity in the house but sounds like your ok there. Checking to make sure the humidifier clean is important too. One thing I learned and made some improvements this year, although it hasn't been near that cold, is circulating the air in the house. I use to get a lot of water gathering on the windows even though they aren't that old and I was pumping tons of moisture into the air and it seemed it all just gathered on the windows and fell to the window sills. Mold would try to start growing there. I found letting the furnace run sometimes and leaving some ceilings fans going helped with that. If it is attributed to allergies I would take a look at something else also. What kind of food does he eat. In this country we don't have proper diets and don't have good access to proper foods. In other words, we cook or process most our foods leaving the good bacteria almost non-existent in the gut. That is where our resistance to allergies seems to have a relation. By eating a little cultured foods every day helps replenish this and keeps it's numbers up. Those higher numbers act like a police force against allergies and sickness. Look it up yourself and read about it. I have been here and there for a while now and have been shocked at what we've done to our food supply. My question started by asking the question to myself, why do we suffer from these things today when as a child I didn't and neither did my friends.
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  20. Coog

    Coog Burning Hunk

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    Sometimes less is more. We've done so much to prevent sickness I think it is starting to have adverse effects. By the way, our flu vaccine this past winter was the most ineffective it has ever been according to the CDC (paraphrasing).

    I doubt burning with a stove would be any more an issue than having a dog or cat in the house. It may be bit different if it was an open fireplace. I would stop burning to be safe but the current stoves these days are pretty sealed up. Doctors, like any one in healthcare right now, are being asked to do more with less. In my opinion, the stove provides reason enough....on to the next one.
  21. DanCorcoran

    DanCorcoran Minister of Fire

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  22. charly

    charly Guest

    Milk is a big allergen as well.. 30 years ago I had a lot of sinus infections, went to an ear, nose and throat doctor, on meds cleared up, 2 weeks later sick again, back on meds for months.... Finally I decided I must be exposed to something ,,as soon as I stopped my meds sick again... I fixed everything by not drinking milk almost over night...Here the doctors just kept dishing out the meds... Never once mentioning milk as a culprit! Kids with chronic ear infections, most likely are milk drinkers,,, an easy fix but hushed up so the docs can make their money... That's the first thing I ask anyone who has kids with ear infections,,, do they drink milk ? 9 out of 10 answer yes!
    bag of hammers and colin.p like this.
  23. colin.p

    colin.p Burning Hunk

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    It's funny (well not really "funny") how many food intolerances there are nowadays. Back in the late 60's, when I was in high school, I can't remember anyone with food allergies (there probably was, just never heard about them), but today, bring a peanut butter sandwich to school....

    I have no idea as to what the OP's answer is, but I know I have two kids that have fierce milk intollerances that caused all sorts of problems. Took a witch doctor (actually a naturapathic doctor) to get the kids off milk and other foods and both had very little issues since then.
    Don Williams likes this.
  24. 69911e

    69911e Member

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    Where are you measuring humidity? Humidity ideally needs to be measured away from the stove and away from the humidifier. If bedrooms are cooler, the humidity would be higher. 50% winter humidity is borderline too high for a not highly insulated house as the space in the walls will potential be significantly higher humidity than the rooms on cold days.
    Adhere to cleaning/maintenance schedule on humidifier.
    You can try running your circulating fan on the furnace to clean the air if you have a nice filter in there. Make sure you do not have a humidifier active on your furnace when using wood.
  25. HomeBruin

    HomeBruin New Member

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    Andybaker, If you are getting condensation on your windows or walls, your humidity level is too high. This will cause molds to grow. Cut back on how much moisture you are putting into the air. The colder it gets outside, the more you may have to cut back on humidity. The condensation problem is relative to outside temperature.

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