YEARS after linking prolonged use of Kashmir’s traditional firepot with malignancy, medicos have now gagged modern heating-gadgets for their proximate use during winters.
The medical advisory of sorts has come amid the intensifying cold in the valley creating a significant market demand for electric blankets, heaters, blowers, electric water bottles, rod heaters, room radiators and other gadgets. In fact, to keep cold at bay, some people are even installing electric hamams in their homes.
However, the medical experts warn that people need to take precautions and avoid proximate use of heating appliances.
“Using heating appliances close to body can lead to many skin-related issues including Erythema ab igne (Naar tuet) and even skin cancers,” Dr. Imran Majid, Director Cutis Institute of Dermatology Srinagar told Kashmir Post.
To beat the cold, the medico said, many people keep the heating gadgets close to their bodies without realizing the harm caused by the proximate use.
“Another issue with heating appliances is that they cause skin dryness, itching and allergies,” Dr. Imran continued. “Elderly persons, especially diabetic patients using hot water bottles in close proximity to skin, can have burns because of the heating appliances.”
Earlier, some medicos had proscribed the prolonged use of Kanger to avoid skin cancer. The traditional winter firepot is tucked in-between the thighs and legs or kept in contact with the abdominal wall to generate warmth during the winter months.
However, with the advent of technology, the people adopted a number of modern heating gadgets, especially in urban areas. But now, these modern heating appliances are facing the traditional firepot fate in Kashmir.
Lately, Fareeda, a 48-year-old homemaker from Srinagar, felt a sudden itching around her legs and feet. When the “needle-pricking” didn’t stop for three days, she was rushed to City’s Noora Hospital where the doctors gave her immediate treatment and told her to avoid using electronic heating gadgets.
Apart from itching, there were rashes all over her legs. When she used to scratch them, she could sense skin cracking. “I was very worried,” she said.
When Fareeda didn’t respond to the treatment, she was rushed to the dermatology unit of SMHS Hospital where she found many patients like her.
“Most of them were using the heating blowers frequently,” she said. “I wasn’t alone facing the skin torment due to the heating appliances.”
The people of Kashmir have sensitive skin which quickly reacts to any allergy, said Dr. Sajjad Ahmad, a dermatologist posted at Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial Hospital, Rainawari, Srinagar.
“There are four basic types of healthy skin — normal, dry, oily and combination,” Dr. Sajjad said. “Kashmiris fall in fourth category, as we’ve seen people with dry skin, eyes and lips getting skin related diseases more often.”
During winters, the dermatologist said, people step out of their warm homes and develop cracks and become prone to infection. “Even if the people had to use the heating appliances during winter, they should use it judiciously,” Dr. Sajjad said.
“People should open their body to direct heat and keep the heating appliance away from the children whose skins are soft and sensitive.”
But while people argue that they can’t afford to spend winters without the heating gadgets, many medicos call for a monthly gadget review.
“A few years ago,” said Dr. Nisar ul Hassan, President Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK), “an associate professor of the SKIMS was charred to death during the night due to short-circuit in his electric blanket.”
But while it’s better to buy branded items to avoid any untoward incident, the doctor said, the heating appliances should get timely repairs and there should be ventilation in the room to avoid rise of carbon monoxide inside the room.
“People should use these gadgets only when needed the most,” Dr. Nisar said.