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15 Hidden Dangers in Your Home You Should Never Ignore

Lint

replacing the screen in the lint trap of a clothes dryerMatt Valentine/Shutterstock

If it’s taking longer than usual for your clothes to dry or the clothes are super hot after a dry cycle, you could have a build-up of lint—even if it’s not visible in the lint screen. “Lint is an extremely flammable material,” says Jason Kapica, president of Dryer Vent Wizard. “Oxygen moves through a dryer and its vent when the machine is running. There is a heating element inside the dryer providing a potential ignition source.” Reduce the risk by removing the lint from the lint screen after each load and get a yearly cleaning of the dryer vent line. Also, make sure to never put any of these 14 items in your dryer!

Puddles

puddle of water under the windowavtk/Shutterstock

If you notice some puddles on the floor (and you don’t have a new puppy), it could be a sign of poor ventilation and mold. “Mold is a particularly common problem in bathrooms with inadequate ventilation,” says Yoel Pioraut, managing partner at MyHome Design + Remodeling. “Examine pipes to check for moisture or excessive condensation. If everything checks out, but you have a lack of ventilation, it’s time to call in a contractor to add an exhaust fan,” recommends Pioraut. Allergies and asthma reactions are intensified when mold is present.

Tripping GFCI

Used Ground fault circuit interrupter electrical wall outlet with shallow depth of fieldPamela Au/Shutterstock

The Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is an electrical safety device that trips electrical circuits when they detect ground faults or leakage currents. “These outlets prevent deadly shock by quickly shutting off power to the circuit when the electricity flowing into the circuit differs from that returning,” says Keith Pinkerton, owner of Mr. Electric of Huntsville, Alabama, a Neighborly company. In some cases, the switches may stay on and trip off when the test button is pressed. That’s a sign a new GFCI should be installed by an electrician. Find out the truth behind deadly electricity myths.

Flickering lights

Vintage luxury interior lighting lamp for home decor.ATK WORK/Shutterstock

Flickering and blinking lights may seem ghostly, but it’s probably overloaded electrical circuits. Pinkerton says other signs include dimming lights, blown fuses, warm or discolored wall plates, crackling, sizzling, or buzzing from receptacles. A mild shock from touching appliances or burning odor from receptacle or wall switches should also be cause for alarm. “Overloaded electrical circuits should only be repaired by a licensed, qualified electrician,” says Pinkerton.

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Annoying beeps

Smoke detector mounted on roof in apartmentAlexander Kirch/Shutterstock

Yes, the annoying beeps on your smoke alarm usually wake you up at 3 a.m., but don’t just knock it off the ceiling and forget about it. It’s a sign it needs to be fixed. It could be a dying battery or dead backup battery, dust, or a sign of a malfunction. “Roughly two-thirds of all home fire deaths occur when smoke alarms are not working,” says Pinkerton. “Check the home to verify smoke alarms are installed in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home. A licensed, qualified electrician should be contacted to verify your home’s smoke alarm system meets the latest building and electrical codes.” Fire drills aren’t just for school kids; here’s how to plan your own fire drill at home.

Creosote build-up

Modern fireplace sitting area with two leather chairs. Interior design.ppa/Shutterstock

A crackling fire is so cozy, but when those dancing flames don’t completely burn off the oils in the wood, they off-gas as volatiles (aka volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) and rise with the smoke. As the smoke cools, it condenses with water and other chemicals inside the chimney and flue, creating a build-up of creosote; this can lead to chimney fires and house fires. “Bringing in an expert to assess and repair if needed is always recommended because of the risk of fire or death,” says Robert Boudreau, InterNACHI-Certified Home Inspector, Metro-West Appraisal and Home Inspections. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys, fireplaces, and vents be inspected at least once per year. Find out the scary ways your fireplace can be toxic.

Pump on the fritz

Family house in Houston suburb flooded from Hurricane Harvey 2017michelmond/Shutterstock

Hey, how’s your sump pump looking? It’s probably not something you think about very often…until it fails and leaves you with a flooded basement. Don’t ignore the signs of possible failure. “Checking connections, cleaning the pump and vents, and making sure the float switch is not restricted can be done by the homeowner,” says Boudreau. “A battery backup pump is also an inexpensive way to prevent failure,” says Boudreau. Another thing: Make sure never to skip the 16 things all smart homeowners do once a year

Not making the grade

cracked wallreleon8211/Shutterstock

Improper grading can cause cracks, deterioration of foundation walls, and structural damage if you don’t know what to look for. “Spotting grading issues is the easiest if water is pooling next to a home’s foundation. But sometimes it is difficult to detect the source because water can be running towards to the home below the surface or water can be pooling because of rain,” says Boudreau. “Adding soil to exterior foundation below siding is an easy and cheap solution.” Changing the downspouts and ensuring they are 6 feet away from the home is another option but if more drastic grading is necessary, a pro needs to be called. Be on the lookout for these other hidden home expenses that drain your bank account.

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Cracks and gaps

Vintage wood floor, Wood background.Take Photo/Shutterstock

Speaking of foundation, there are signs inside your house you should look for on a regular basis. These include gaps and cracks in hardwood floors, or cracks at the corners of door jambs and window frames, says Patrick Knight, training, licensing and inspection support manager of WIN Home Inspection. Minors cracks should be monitored, but cracks over 1/8 to 1/4 inches should be investigated by a pro. “Uneven floors and doors that don’t shut right can be annoyances, but if that settlement continues, then the structure can become at risk,” cautions Knight. Another safety tip: Find out the 12 home improvement projects you should never, ever DIY.

Mixing old and new

Black power cord cable unplugged with european wall outlet on white plaster wall with copy spaceShawn Hempel/Shutterstock

Do you have an old house with 2-prong outlets in some rooms and updated 3-prong in others? Do you see mixed wire type, open junctions or just worn out wiring? “In older houses where electrical wiring has been updated, it’s important to make sure these changes were done to-code and by a professional. Substandard wiring can not only lead to blown circuits, but old or faulty wiring left intact can cause fires,” warns Knight. Contacting an electrician is recommended for this home improvement. Save money with these home improvement projects you can do yourself.

Up on a roof

black shingles, roof tileManuel Capellari/Shutterstock

If you’re comfortable doing so, check out your roof with a ladder or get a decent view with binoculars. The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends inspecting it twice a year—in the fall and spring. Knight says to look for bumps or dips; discolored, missing, or broken shingles; gutters and attached drainage. “The biggest thing that can happen are leaks. Leaks lead to structural issues as well as moisture-related issues in the home,” says Knight. You can replace missing shingles that flew off in a storm and caulk flashing and hammer down popped nails yourself, but call a pro if you’re not comfortable working on the roof or if extensive damage is found. When a hurricane is bearing down, doing this one thing could save your roof.

Leaking ducts and flue pipes

Closeup of gas water heater on a brick wall. Gas boiler in boiler room for hot watermarketlan/Shutterstock

When it comes to boilers or furnaces, “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a common mentality. But even if they’re keeping your toes warm, you should definitely be checking these on a regular basis to look for warning signs things are headed south, such as a yellow or jumpy pilot flame. In addition, Knight says to check for cracks, rusting and/or leaking flue pipes, as this is a big hazard for carbon monoxide. Try these 15 tricks to keep your home warm while saving on heating.

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Subterranean destroyers

Group of termites on a surface of wooden boardkpboonjit/Shutterstock

Bubbling paint may be a sign of moisture build-up…or termites. You’re hoping it’s moisture, right? “Subterranean termites eat the wood and process it into food. Termites make mud tubes because their bodies must stay moist,” says Knight. You can spot some of the evidence: mud tubes, shredded wings that look like tiny fish scales, sagging or blisters in flooring, hollow or weak sounding wood, or wood that is damaged. It usually takes years of unnoticed termite activity to destroy a house, but they can certainly damage structural components, like the floor joists which support your house. Call an exterminator to assess the extent of infestation. These are the 15 sneaky signs your home’s about to be infested.

Hard-to-trace leaks

Close-up Of Water Is Leaking From The White Sink PipeAndrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Leaky pipes behind the wall, like in the tub and shower area, go unnoticed until you see visible damage. “Water damage can cause structural issues as well as mold and moisture issues,” says Knight. Signs something is amiss are blistering paint, warped walls, damaged wallpaper, loose tiles, a buckling or cracked floor, and mold or mildew on non-shower walls. “Once you have leaks that show up in walls or start causing floor damage, a pro should be called,” says Knight. The longer it takes you to detect the leak, the more extensive the damage could be. Check out the cleaning solutions to get mildew out of any surface.

Gurgles and burping

white toilet in modern home, white toilet bowl in cleaning room, flushing liquid in toilet, private toilet in modern room, interior equipment and modern restroom, cleaning toilet.curraheeshutter/Shutterstock

Sounds that babies make? Yes, but if your toilet is making this sound, it’s not cute. Built-up grease, large quantities of food in the garbage disposal, or using your toilet like a waste-basket contributes to a sewer system backup. According to Glenn Gallas, vice president of operations, Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company, signs of a sewer system backup include gurgling, burping, and overflowing fixtures in toilets, tubs, showers and sink drains. This is a situation that a plunger isn’t likely going to fix; a plumber should be called as raw sewage is a serious health hazard. Next, find out the 12 things you should never, ever flush down the toilet.

Flystrike

Flystrike, also known as fly strike or myiasis, is a potentially fatal disease that is common in the warmer months of the year. It is caused by several types of insects that will lay eggs in the wounded skin of mammals, and the maggots hatching from the eggs then digest living tissue.

Species that cause flystrike in rabbits include the blowflies (the green bottle flies Lucilia sericata and the blue bottle flies Calliphora sp.), the grey flesh fly Wohlfahrtia sp., the common screwworm fly Callitroga sp., and from the botfly or warble fly Cuterebra sp. (Western hemisphere only). While not usual, the common house fly (Musca domestica) and other flies in the order Diptera can also cause flystrike when it lays eggs in matted fur coated in feces, and the hatched maggots rapidly move to an infected wound.[1]

Eggs are laid and hatch within 24 hours to L1 larvae which are non-pathogenic and cause no symptoms. The molt from L1 to L2 and L3 stages takes 3 days, during which tissue damage can be caused. Clinical signs become obvious at around 4 days post egg-laying.[2]

Myiasis cause by larvae of the Cuterebra flies is slightly different because their flystrike is not linked to poor hygiene. Instead of depositing eggs on skin soiled with urine or excrement, females deposit eggs near the entrance to a rabbit burrow or near an outdoor rabbit hutch.[3] Animals become infested when they pass through contaminated areas, and the eggs hatch in response to heat form a nearby host.[4]

Risk factors from a recently paper, from Great Britain, published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine.[5]

  • Rabbits five years of age and over were more than 3.8 times likely to present for blowfly strike.
  • Female entire rabbits were at greatest risk, being 3.3 times more likely to be affected than neutered females.
  • For every 1 °C rise in predicted environmental temperature, there was a 33% increase in risk of flystrike.

Symptoms

The most common site for flystrike in rabbits is the area at the base of the spine, between the tail and the back — this is a difficult area for rabbits to groom effectively especially if they are overweight or have a flexibility problem.

Causes

Treatment and prevention

Initial treatment for flystrike involves clipping the fur and cleaning any affected areas. Then, the maggots are manually removed, and the wounds are flushed with a dilute chlorhexidine or povidone-iodine cleanser.[6] Fentanyl/fluanisone provides sedation and effective analgesia, and drying the area with a hair dryer can bring out any remaining maggots as they are attracted by the heat.[2]

Cuterebra larvae should be removed via their breathing hole either surgically or by using ivermectin.[6]

Supportive treatment should be aggressive with therapy for toxic shock and ivermectin or imidacloprid to kill any additional maggots or larvae that cannot be removed.[6]

The underlying cause of poopy butt should be addressed as well, and regular inspection of the rabbit’s bottom and protection from exposure to flies is important to preventing flystrike.

Topical cyromazine (Rearguard, Novartis) applied as a 6% solution topically every 6 to 10 weeks can be used as a preventative for myiasis.[6]

Further reading

The following are some experiences with flystrike:

The following are some videos of botflies being removed:

Below are libraries with more links to information about flystrike.

See also

References

  1. The Merck Manual for Pet Health. (n.d.). Flies and Mosquitoes of Horses. Retrieved 19 August 2015 from http://www.merckvetmanual.com/pethealth/horse_disorders_and_diseases/skin_disorders_of_horses/flies_and_mosquitoes_of_horses.html#v3221630
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Varga, M. (2013). Textbook of rabbit medicine. (2nd ed.).
  3. MediRabbit.com, Esther van Praag Ph.D., Myiasis (botfly) in Rabbits
  4. Merck Veterinary Manual, Overview of Cuterebra Infestation in Small Animals
  5. Rachel Turner, Elena Arsevska, Beth Brant, David A. Singleton, Jenny Newman, PJ-M Noble, Philip H. Jones, Alan D. Radford, Risk factors for cutaneous myiasis (blowfly strike) in pet rabbits in Great Britain based on text-mining veterinary electronic health records. Preventive Veterinary Medicin, Volume 153, 1 May 2018, Pages 77–83.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Jepson, L. (2009). Exotic animal medicine: A quick reference guide. (1st ed.).