Tag Archives: Health

Why E-Cigarettes Explode, and How You Can Vape Safely

Why E-Cigarettes Explode, and How You Can Vape Safely

In 2015, a man was hospitalized with critical injuries after his e-cigarette exploded in his face. Another victim suffered severe burns on his hands, a hole in his tongue, and knocked out teeth. Here’s why and how e-cigarettes can literally blow up on you, and what you can do to minimize your risk.

Admittedly, to say that e-cigarettes “explode” sounds over the top, but this video shows that something is clearly catching on fire. This concern over fire and consumer safety prompted the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) to conduct an investigation, which they published in late 2014, aptly titled Electronic Cigarette Fires and Explosions (PDF). The big caveat here is that their investigation rests on collected reports about e-cigarette accidents that occurred between 2009 and August 2014 (a total of 25).


The Battery In Your E-Cigarette Is The Big Problem

Most e-cigarettes are powered by a lithium-ion battery, and that’s where the fire danger comes from. Lithium-ion batteries are found everywhere, from our cell phones to our cameras to our hybrid cars. When you puff on an e-cig, a battery powers the heating element that then turns the chemical solution in the canister into a vapor. In other, more manual e-cigs, you have to press a switch to take a drag. Either way, a lithium-ion battery is involved.

We know that lithium-ion batteries can pose a fire hazard if left in certain pressurized areas, like the baggage compartment of a plane. In early 2015, the Federal Aviation Association prohibited e-cigs and other spare lithium-ion batteries from being kept in checked baggage. Under normal conditions though, the possibility of a lithium-ion battery failing is pretty darn low (about one in a million). In the rare instance it does, the USFA report explains:

During the typical failure mode for a lithium-ion battery, the electrolyte is heated to its boiling point, the internal pressure in the battery builds to a point where the seal at the end of the battery ruptures, and the pressure is abruptly released through the sealed end of the battery case.

However, the cylindrical design of e-cigs and its structurally weak end points make it a bigger fire risk.

When the battery seal (at the end of the battery) ruptures, the pressure within the e-cigarette cylinder builds quickly and instantly ruptures, usually at the end. As a result of the battery and container failure, one or the other, or both, can be propelled across the room like a bullet or small rocket. In contrast to e-cigarettes, the cylindrical lithium-ion batteries used in laptop computers and portable tools are contained in rigid plastic cases that are generally strong enough to prevent the failing battery from “rocketing” away. Fires do occur as a result of battery failure, but most fires initially involve only the device that the battery pack is installed in.

In general, lithium-ion batteries cause problems when they’re overheated from outside heat sources (like direct sunlight), short circuits, or overcharging. In 20 of the 25 cited incidents in the USFA report, the battery malfunctioned while the e-cigarette was plugged into a USB port and recharging.

Normally, batteries have safety features to prevent short circuits and overcharging. However, e-cigarettes typically have a USB port that appears to be compatible with any USB cable and charger. People often assume that any charger will do, including manufacturer-approved ones and other non-sanctioned, third-party ones, as long as it fits and the device responds, but that’s not the case.

According to the USFA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), charging an e-cigarette with non-approved power adapters “could subject the battery to a higher voltage than is deemed safe” and increase the risk of overheating (called thermal runaway). During thermal runaway, the battery can melt, radiating lots of heat, and the electrolytes can reach a boiling point…and well, you can probably guess what could happen next.


How You Can Minimize the Risk of an E-Cig Meltdown

Why E-Cigarettes Explode, and How You Can Vape Safely

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently said they will regulate vaping. Although the emphasis is on the ingredients and packaging, the FDA’s expanded authority includes “components and parts”, including “certain batteries.”



The Federal Register confirms that the FDA has been concerned by reports of exploding e-cigarettes, and has provided a draft guidance on the safety requirements that companies will need to follow. For example, the FDA says that the product labeling should include text or a graphic to show users should recharge the product only with specified chargers to minimize the risk of battery failure. But as of right now, these guidelines haven’t been finalized yet.


In the meantime, you can keep yourself safe with a little more education. Most importantly, handle your e-cigarette batteries (or any lithium-ion battery, for that matter) with care. Here are a few key pointers:

  • Stick with the manufacturer’s provided charger: Always use the charging appliance that comes with the unit and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. This way, you know the battery is compatible with the charger. Avoid leaving it connected to the charger overnight.
  • Be careful about what you plug your e-cig into: Avoid plugging the e-cig into any old USB port. The manufacturer’s user manual usually includes technical specifications for the proper voltage.
  • Buy from reputable companies and suppliers: There are a lot of homemade “mods”, or basically DIY, low-cost modifications of e-cigs. This isn’t exactly the safest way to go because homemade mods simply may not have the built-in safety mechanisms to prevent overheating.
  • Check to see if the battery is “safe”: The battery shouldn’t be more powerful than what the device is designed for. Plus, there are different quality of batteries. Poorly manufactured, low-cost, counterfeit ones typically do not perform as well and would be more likely to have problems. Internet forums like this one in Planet of the Vapes often share information on product recalls, safety notices, and what batteries not to buy.
  • Take care of your battery: The Ashtray blog (full disclosure, the blog is a subsidiary of a site that sells e-cigs) suggests that you clean the battery and terminal contents with tissue or alcohol wipes if it’s dirty. When you’re not using the e-cigarette, be sure to turn the battery off. Finally, they recommend that you don’t over tighten when attaching the battery to your clearomizer (the clear plastic or glass body of an e-cig if that’s the kind you have). If you suspect damage to your battery, get a new one or take it to an electronics service center for inspection.

In case a battery overheats, Battery University recommends moving the device away from other flammable objects (if it’s safe to handle) and placing it on a hard, non-combustible surface. If it’s even possible, remove the battery and let it “burn out” outdoors. If a fire occurs, grab a fire extinguisher (only if it’s a lithium-metal battery) or just use water or another non-alcoholic liquid (soda works!) to prevent the fire from spreading.

Not all battery failures can be prevented, but the likelihood of an e-cigarette battery failing is statistically low. Still, with the growing popularity of vaping (last count was more than 2.5 million Americans, according to the USFA report), it is a very real possibility. If you vape, vape with care.

Illustration by: Sam Woolley. Images by Ozont.

Why Some People Sweat More than Others (and What to Do If That’s You)

Why Some People Sweat More than Others (and What to Do If That's You)

Some of us just sweat more than others, and while it can be the source of much embarrassment and shame (trust me, I’m a sweaty person), it helps to understand the reason behind it. This piece from The Science of Us explains the biology behind why, and what you can do about it if it bothers you.

Barring a case of hyperhidrosis (a condition marked by abnormally heavy sweating,) if you’re one of those people who tends to sweat a bit more than others, you can blame your parents—or at least your environment during the first few years of your life:

Explaining why some people sweat more than others, Rittié said that “[w]e think this is because of the following interesting fact. Everyone is born with virtually the same number of sweat glands, but sweat glands mature during the first 2 years of life. Not all sweat glands become able to produce sweat (it depends on the need during that time). So people who grew up in warm climates tend to have more active sweat glands than people who grew up in a climate-controlled environment or in cold climates. As adults, we keep all our sweat glands but only a portion of them are able to produce sweat. This percentage varies between individuals.”

I asked her if she was aware of any genetic factors contributing to this, and she said no. So that leaves the environment you spend your early years in as a major contributing factor to how sweaty you are later in life.

So that explains why we sweat so much, but not what you can do about it if you have a tendency to sweat profusely with even a little activity. The full piece has suggestions for that too, but here are a few stand-outs:

  • Slowly acclimate yourself to warmer temperatures over time. By inching up your thermostat a few degrees at a time, you’ll have to suffer through the discomfort of sweating a good bit at first, but over time, your body will grow accustomed to the now-higher temperatures. If you’re exposed to warmer temperatures often, your body will adapt—this is why 65 degrees feels chilly in the fall, but warm in the spring, the piece explains—by the end of summer, your body is adapted, and you can do the same at home.
  • Sip cold water, and ditch the ice packs. Your body’s sweat response is based on internal temperature, not external temperature, so sipping cold water will help keep your core temperature down—which in turn, despite how much activity you get or how hot it is outside, will help you cool off.

The slow adaptation rule also applies to exercise and activity as well. If you feel like you sweat after even a flight of stairs, even though you’re not winded or tired, keep pushing—eventually, maybe by making those stairs part of your daily climb—your body will adapt and you’ll be able to take them without sweating so much.

If You’re Way Too Sweaty, Blame Your Early Childhood | The Science of Us

Photo by kullez.

What You Can Do to Help In Wake of the Orlando Shooting

What You Can Do to Help In Wake of the Orlando Shooting

Early this morning in Orlando, 50 people were shot dead and 53 more wounded at a nightclub in Orlando. Whether you’re local or not, here’s how you can help, or at least find a vigil to attend, like-minded people to be with, or seek a little peace.

Check on Loved Ones, or Let Others Know You’re Safe

If you know someone in the Orlando area and you’re worried about them, the Orlando Police have set up a hotline at 407-246-4357 you can call to check on loved ones or first-responders you think may have been at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

If you were there, and want to make sure everyone knows you’re okay, Facebook’s Safety Check tool has been enabled for Orlando, and you can (and should) mark yourself as safe so friends and family know. You can also see other people who have checked in as well.

Donate, or Donate Blood

First and foremost, if you’re in the Orlando area, you can give blood. If you’re not, you still can—or you can give money (more on that later.)

As of this writing, local blood banks are overwhelmed with people looking to donate and help, so you don’t need to head out right now. However, they are encouraging you to make an appointment and come back later. Here’s a great list of places you can donate, from the Guardian US:

Similarly, this list from Bungalower has a regularly updated rundown places accepting monetary donations, but blood donations as well:

OneBlood is saying they have met their needs for today. There is an urgent need for O Negative, O Positive and AB Plasma blood donors. One Blood is asking those that are not or do not know your blood type to please wait until tomorrow or later in the week and that you make an appointment by calling 1.888.9.DONATE (1.888.936.6283). Please note FDA regulations are still in place for blood donations according to OneBlood.

Confirmed blood donation locations today are:

  • Orlando West Michigan Donor Center, 345 W Michigan Street, Ste. 106, Orlando, FL 32806
  • Orlando Main Donor Center, 8669 Commodity Circle, Orlando, FL 32819
  • Oviedo Donor Center, 1954 W. State Road 426, Oviedo, FL 32765

Mobile Locations (please note some of these locations are running low on blood donation supplies):

  • Asbury United Methodist Church – Bloodmobile 220, West Horatio Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751
  • St. Luke’s United Methodist Church – Bloodmobile, 4851 S. Apopka Vineland Road, Orlando, FL 32819
  • Metro Church Bloodmobile, 1491 East State Road 434, Winter Springs, FL 32708
  • Out of supplies – First Unitarian Church – 1901 East Robinson Street, Orlando, FL 32803 (until 1 PM)
  • Weingarten Realty – 2566 E Colonial Drive (12 pm-6 pm)
  • St. Richard’s Episcopal Church – 5151 Lake Howell Rd, Winter Park (until 1 PM)
  • AMC 18 Altamonte Mall -451 Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springes (until 9 PM)
  • Colonial Plaza Marketcenter- 2566 East Colonial (until 6 PM)
  • Metro Church Winter Springs – 1491 E State Rd 434, Winter Springs
  • St Cloud Presbyterian Church – 909 10th St, St Cloud

Since this targeted the LGBTQ community, it’s important to note that only certain gay men can give blood (contrary to earlier reports, the ban on gay men giving blood in Orlando has not been lifted.) Even so, some blood banks are aware of the new FDA guidelines, and you should set up an appointment—you’ll be screened, at which point you can find out if you qualify. If you’re not sure, check the Red Cross’s blood donation guidelines here.

If you’re not local to the Orlando area, this GoFundMe (which has raised close to $60,000 as of this writing) is raising money to support the Orlando LGBT community with counseling resources, medical bill assistance, staff an emergency hotline, and pay for grief counselors. If you can’t give blood, consider sending a few dollars their way.

Beyond that, if you’re eligable, you should consider giving blood to your own community. Odds are they could use the donation. Check the Red Cross’s donation tool here to find a bank or mobile blood drive near you, or the American Association of Blood Banks’ tool here. Even if you can’t give plasma directly to the victims, your neighbors will thank you.

Attend a Vigil

For those folks local to the Orlando area, Bungalower offers these local and nearby vigils to attend:

Confirmed Vigils:

  • Joy Metropolitan Community Church – 6:00 PM – 2351 South Ferncreek Ave
  • Parliament House – 7:00 PM – 410 N Orange Blossom Trail
  • Ember Orlando – 7:00 PM – 42 W. Central Blvd
  • Daily City Food Truck Bazaar at Fashion Square Mall – 7:00 PM – 3201 E Colonial Dr

Vigils in nearby communities include:

  • Broward – Vigil at Pride Center in Wilton Manors Sunday at 5pm
  • Jacksonville – Vigil in Jacksonville Sunday at 7pm at Memorial Park.
  • Miami – Vigil Sunday at 7pm at SoundScape Park, located at 500 17 Street, Miami Beach, FL.

Orlando Weekly has a similar list here.

However, cities around the country (and beyond) are holding their own today, from Nashville to Allentown to Chicago to Vancouver to New York City to Toronto, so if you’re looking to speak up or just not be alone right now, you don’t have to be. Check this Twitter search to see what’s happening in your community—and make sure you vet what you see against a local paper or multiple sources. Social media is useful, but not always reliable after an event like this.

Find Someone to Talk To

Again, if you’re local, the GLBT Center and Zebra Coalition are reaching out to people in the Orlando community who need help, and have opened a hotline at 407-228-1446 for anyone who needs to talk. If you’d rather speak to someone in person, counselors will be present all day today, and through the week.


If you’re not local however, you have a number of options. This guide to LGBT centers across America can help you find one near you. You can also dial 211 to connect with health and human services in your community to hear about mental health resources in your area, or you can try more digital, anonymous services like 7Cups, BlahTherapy, or the Crisis Text Line.

Title photo by KOMUNews.

Why We Get Brain Freezes

Everyone’s familiar with a brain freeze: You eat or drink something cold a little too fast and suddenly your head erupts in a flash of pain. We all get them and try to avoid them, but this video explains why they happen at all.

Long story short for the folks who can’t watch the video, the going theory is that brain freezes happen when the brain interprets rapid constriction of blood vessels in the mouth and palate as pain—the cold sensation and blood vessel constriction trigger the trigeminal nerve, which tells the brain “something’s wrong in my face,” and your brain does what it needs to so you stop doing that thing—the “thing” in question is usually eating ice cream, drinking a milkshake, or enjoying some delicious shaved ice.

In fact, the video (from Mental Floss, linked below) explains that people who are more susceptible to migranes are also more susceptible to brain freezes, and researchers hope that by studying them, they’ll get a clue into how migranes and other headaches work, and how to treat them more effectively.

As for what to do about them? Well the answer is the same as you’ve been told your whole life: when you’re eating something cold, slow down. If you really need a countermeasure, a glass of warm water or something may help you recover a little more quickly than you would otherwise. Hit play on the video above (or the link below) for more.

What’s a brain freeze? | Mental Floss (YouTube)

Why Some People Bruise So Easily

We’ve all had those moments where we run into things and come away with a nasty bruise, but this DNews video explains why some of us seem to be more resilient and heal quickly while others of us seem to wake up with mystery bruises with no memory of where they came from.

After explaining exactly how the bruising process works and looks (for lighter skinned people, that is), the video explains that some people may bruise more easily if they’re prone to specific blood conditions like hemophilia or Von Willebrand Disease—where the blood doesn’t clot as quickly as it should or the proteins in the blood that are supposed to clot don’t work properly. Also, people who are on blood thinning medications for heart conditions or blood pressure conditions may also bruise more easily because of the way the medicine interacts with your blood. Similarly, if you’re particularly athletic or do a lot of weight training, you may be prone to bruise more often because the process of building muscle involves causing small amounts of damage to muscle tissue and then letting it heal back, stronger than before.


Beyond that though, if you do really get those mystery bruises and you have no idea where they’re from, they could be an underlying condition that you should speak to your doctor about. If none of the above applies to you, and you don’t remember bumping your shin in the middle of the night—or you do and that bruise seems to be taking forever to go away, it might be time to call the doctor.

Why Do Some People Bruise So Easily? | DNews (YouTube)

Every Diet and Exercise Calendar You Could Need to Plan Your Routine

Every Diet and Exercise Calendar You Could Need to Plan Your Routine

It’s not hard to develop a basic diet and exercise plan the you can stick to over the years, but fine-tuning your progress offers a different set of challenges—often in the form of math. BodyBuilding.com put together a series of calculators to do the hard work for you so you can figure out exactly what you need to do to meet your health and fitness goals.


Let’s get one thing out of the way—you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to use this stuff. I’m not a big guy, nor do I want to be. I don’t want big muscles. I just want my diet and exercise routine to keep my body healthy and strong. When you hit an annoying plateau, or you just want some numerical guidance so you don’t feel like you’re guessing, fitness calculators can help fill in some important blanks.


With nutrition, for example, you might wonder how many carbohydrates you should eat or how much water you should drink based on your work life and exercise regimen. When it comes to fat loss goals, counting calories (or protein, if you prefer) can help you track progress your eyes can’t see (if you don’t use it as an excuse to eat more)—but not if you don’t know how much you’re burning during a workout. These calculators figure out those sorts of things for you, in addition to other helpful information like your maximum heart rate and body type.

In most cases, you enter a few statistics like age, height, and weight, and answer a couple of questions about your food intake or activity level. Click “Calculate” and you’ll get the information you’re after. While all results are going to be approximate, as they would be with any comparable tool, you can quickly figure out what you need to do to drop a little fat or even get a six pack.

Check out the full listing on BodyBuilder.com to get started. They’re all free to use.

A Large Selection of Easy to Use Fitness Calculators! | BodyBuilder.com

Title image remixed from originals by Axsimen (Shutterstock) and grmarc (Shutterstock).

The Exercise You Need to Go From “Skinny Fat” to Fit

If you have a slender frame, but still have a gut and flab in certain areas of the body, you might consider yourself “skinny fat.” There’s nothing bad or unhealthy about being shaped that way, but if you feel the desire to change it, here’s how.

A “skinny fat” person is best described as someone who weighs very little, but still has a high amount of body fat. If you identify as “skinny fat,” and want to look more fit, this video from the PictureFit YouTube Channel explains the types of workouts necessary to lower body fat and increase muscle. In short, it’s all about resistance training. Diets and cardio can help, but if you’re only doing those things, you’ll hit a plateau. What you need is to increase your muscle mass to offset the fat to muscle mass percentage and add much-needed definition to your frame. Fat burning from consistent resistance training can also be enhanced with a well thought out diet and by keeping your protein intake high. This is something I’ve been struggling with myself for the past few years, and lifting weights has been a huge help.


Skinny Fat Explained – How to Go From Skinny Fat to Fit | YouTube

The Differences Between Antibiotics, Antibacterials, and Antiseptics (and When to Use Them)

The Differences Between Antibiotics, Antibacterials, and Antiseptics (and When to Use Them)

There’s a bit more to first aid than just cleaning a wound and slapping on a band-aid. Store shelves are littered with antibiotics like Neosporin, antiseptics like peroxide, and more. Let’s go over the differences.

Mental Floss’ article covers anesthetics rather than antibacterials, but we figured there may be more confusion between antibiotics and antibacterials. Both fall under antimicrobials, a general category of compounds that kills microbes (bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens). An antibacterial is an antibiotic, but as the name implies, it can only target bacteria. Antibiotics, on the other hand, can kill or keep pathogens from growing.

The name brand Neosporin, for example, is an antibiotic ointment that can be used on wounds, but won’t help with burns, existing infections, or other, deeper pain (despite having Lidocaine, a topical analgesic.) The general caveat about antibiotics also apply here: don’t overuse them, as doing so could encourage bacteria to be more resistant.

Antiseptics, including hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and iodine, are mainly used to deter bacterial growth. In general, they’re used to clean the skin before an injection (like during a blood test) and can be used to clean wounds. We’ve discussed before how hydrogen peroxide can be harsh on wounds, so if you’re cleaning a reasonable wound, most experts agree that soap and water are ideal.


What’s the Difference Between Neosporin, Bactine, and Hydrogen Peroxide? | Mental Floss

Image by papertygre.

The Ideal Amount of Protein You Need In a Meal to Feel Full

The Ideal Amount of Protein You Need In a Meal to Feel Full

One of the benefits of protein foods is that it keeps you full, which is helpful for when you’re trying to lose weight. But it’s not just any amount of protein. Specifically, you should aim for about 30 grams of protein per meal to help you control your appetite.


Dr. Mike Roussell, PhD, and Director of Nutrition for PEAK Performance in New York City, explains on his blog that it takes at least 30 grams of protein at each meal to draw out protein’s high satiety effects. As a side note, 30 grams is consistent with the number I came across during my research, such as this article in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, for our protein post a few weeks prior.

We’re still not sure what exactly is in protein that “triggers” this, but 30 grams seem to be the sweet spot. One idea is that eating 30 grams per meal reduces ghrelin, one of the hunger hormones that tells us it’s feeding time. When you have less ghrelin, you’re less likely to be hangry.

In real world terms, 30 grams of protein translates to about:

  • One fist-sized portion of chicken breast (4 ounces or so)
  • One and a half containers of those individual servings of Greek yogurt
  • Five whole eggs or eight egg whites
  • One whole block of tofu
  • Two cups of cooked black beans
  • One scoop of protein powder
  • Four cups of low-fat milk
  • One and a half cups of mixed nuts


Those are just some examples, but I want to emphasize that you wouldn’t only eat those protein sources in those specific amounts (especially because there are also carbs and fats). The idea is to mix and match from a variety of sources, having the total protein in your meal add up to 30 grams.

Protein Isn’t Making You Full | Mike Roussell

Image by Kurt Thomas Hunt.

Learn to Do CPR on Your Cat or Dog

You already know it’s good to keep your CPR chops up to date so you can help a human, but dogs and cats can benefit from CPR too. The guidelines are similar—just do the compressions while the animal is on their side.

Pets don’t commonly have the same type of cardiac arrest that humans do, so you’re less likely to meet a dog who needs CPR than you are a person. Still, this is the right thing to do for a dog who is unconscious after drowning or if they do have one of the rare health conditions that requires it. Send someone to call an emergency vet clinic, and proceed.

The basic steps are:

  1. Carefully approach the animal, and look inside their mouth. (If they try to bite you, they don’t need CPR.)
  2. If they’re not breathing, give 4-5 rescue breaths, watching the chest rise and fall.
  3. Check for a pulse using the artery on the inside of the dog’s thigh.
  4. Perform 30 chest compressions, aiming to put your hands on the animal’s heart, right around the place their elbow touches their body. For large dogs, use both hands like you would for a person. For smaller dogs and for cats, you can squeeze the front of their chest with one hand.

For a rule of thumb, the rhythm of Stayin’ Alive (about 100 beats per minute) is a good speed for dogs and cats as well as for humans.

Once you’ve watched that video, if you’d like more information you can read the technical guidelines written for veterinarians, or check out this segment from the Hallmark Channel that gives some extra tips on how to handle very large and small dogs.

Dog CPR – How to Resuscitate Your Pet | First Aid for Life