Today’s Extra for Feb. 13: Best Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Someone Based on Their Love Language

Best Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Someone Based on Their Love Language

Valentine’s Day. Love it or hate it, it’s almost upon us. (I know, wasn’t it just Christmas?) A lot of people think it’s just another excuse for retailers to get us to part with our moolah. But done right, it can actually be really special.

Rather than yet another heart-covered Snoopy card or stuffed animal (yawn), let’s put some thought into celebrating the day of romance this year. Let’s gift our significant other with something that speaks their love language.


If you’re wondering how on earth you’re supposed to figure out your partner’s love language, not to worry. Gary Chapman wrote a book called The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.

When the initial head-over-heels-ness of a new relationship wears off and life resumes a sense of normality, we forget to do the small things that let our spouse know we care.

Oftentimes, when we do remember, our efforts fall short of the mark. Not because we didn’t try, but because we used the wrong language. When we learn to express love in our partner’s language, our efforts will almost always be appreciated.

Helpfully, discovering your love language is as simple as taking a quick online assessment. Based on your responses, it then identifies your primary love language, explains what it means and helps you use it to connect more intimately with your person.

Your love language essentially sums up what you value most in a relationship. For some people it’s receiving a gift or token of appreciation, for others it’s spending quality time with a loved one. When you know your partner’s love language it’s suddenly a lot easier to understand why your last gift wasn’t a hit with them.

Words of Affirmation

As it implies, this language uses words to affirm other people. Whether you express your love verbally, via text message or in an old school letter, doesn’t matter. The important thing is to choose your words thoughtfully.

Gift idea: Grab a sheet of paper or open a new Word doc and get writing. Don’t worry about being a literary genius or anything. Just focus on saying how you feel in an honest and heartfelt way. List the things you love most about them, big and small. Let them know you notice these things even if you don’t always say as much.

Then, roll it up, tie it with ribbon and add a wax stamp. You could also wrap it in tissue paper or put it in an envelope covered in geeky stickers. You can give it to them as is, but going the extra mile with the presentation will knock your home run right out of the ball park.

Acts of Service

For these people, actions speak louder than words. There’s no point buying them roses or telling them how much they mean to you, they want you to show them. Something as simple as taking on the lion’s share of the housework when they’re stressed at work will mean the world to them.

Gift idea: Make a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner for the two of you. If you can’t cook, make something basic. The fact that you made the effort is what counts here. Also, and this is important, make sure you do the washing up afterwards.

Not feeling your inner-Nigella? What about making them a ‘Get Out of Housework’ free voucher to be used at their discretion? The fact that you’re willing to risk having to vacuum  and wash dishes at a moment’s notice is going to score you a bunch of points.

Receiving Gifts

For some people, what makes them feel most loved is to receive a gift. The trick is to give them something that shows how much you care. Take the time to make or buy a gift that’s personal, speaks to their tastes and shows you put a lot of thought into it.

Gift idea: Anyone can go to the store and buy a box of chocolates. You need to raise the bar a little higher than that. If hand making chocolate is too much of a stretch, then at least visit a quality chocolatier and put together a collection of their favorite flavors.

If you’re married to an earth-warrior, then make sure your gift is eco-friendly and if your spouse is vegan be sure to give them something that’s vegan friendly. A little effort and forethought goes a long way, is all I’m saying.

Quality Time

This language is all about giving the other person your undivided attention. They love the idea of the two of you hanging out together with no chance of being interrupted. The simple act of putting your phone away when you’re together will speak volumes.

Gift idea: Send the kids to grandma and have a romantic picnic in the lounge. Put on some music and just enjoy each other’s company. Without being too show-offy about it, make a point of letting them know your phone is not only on silent, but in another room entirely. It’s the little things.

Physical Touch

To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch. Getting physical means the world to them. Sex is great, but so is holding hands, hugging and scooching up close on the couch to watch a movie.

Gift idea: Give your love a Valentine’s Day to remember with a massage that shows exactly how you feel. Set the scene with scented candles, soft music and romantic essential oils. Remember, it’s about touch more than technique. Take your time and really get into the experience. Whatever you do, don’t cop out and give them a massage voucher for some fancy spa. That’s not the point.


Today’s Extra for February 12: How to Be Alone and Treasure Every Second of It

How to Be Alone and Treasure Every Second of It

Being alone is often confused with being lonely, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth! Being alone — it’s just a fact. You’re on your own, with no one else around. Lonely, on the other hand, is a feeling. You’re unhappy or discontent because you are alone.

Learning to enjoy spending time alone is a skill — one you can learn and strengthen over time. Sure, you may still feel lonely every once in a while, in the quiet hours after a lovely time with family, after a breakup, in the first weeks after a move; but with a little practice, alone-ness can become synonymous with contentedness — an emotional state we should all be seeking.

Spending time alone, in your own company, gives you time to recharge, identify your feelings, find your voice and improve the quality of relationships that you have with people when you’re with them. Let’s take a look at how we might develop this in ourselves.


Many of us live in worlds saturated with communication and media. It’s rare that we have a second to ourselves completely free from the pulls of social media or other people.

Your first quiet moments with yourself will probably feel strange — a bit too quiet, a bit too intrusive — but lean into it! You need to get a little more comfortable being in your own skin.


One of the most rewarding aspects of learning to enjoy one’s own company is rediscovering your thoughts and feelings. Are you feeling cooped up or uneasy? Address this internally. Do you need a little more space? Do you need to declutter?

Are you feeling anger bubble up seemingly out of nowhere? Where is this stemming from? What triggered this feeling? What can you do, now, to address it? Complex feelings arise in the quiet. Let them be and take notice.


Alone time doesn’t need to be dull or meditative. Give yourself the space to spend time on solitary activities you enjoy, whether it be reading a mystery novel, plucking out melodies on the guitar or researching a new skill. Sing in the shower. Dance in your PJs! This is your time. Use it how you will!



Today’s Extra for February 10: Doctors are Finally Prescribing Nature for Chronic Disease

Doctors are Finally Prescribing Nature for Chronic Disease

Think about how you feel after spending the day outside. Tired, maybe, but also deeply satisfied. Our relationship to nature is primal—we thrive on it. Spending time in green spaces is absolutely crucial to human wellness. Luckily, doctors are finally starting to realize how powerful nature can be—especially when it comes to those with chronic health issues. Yep, they’re even prescribing it.

Doctors in Scotland’s Shetland Islands are now issuing ‘nature prescriptions’ as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. And it’s not just doctors telling people to get outside and go hiking/biking/swimming or do some hardcore outdoor exercise. These aren’t high intensity prescriptions. Doctors are telling patients to get outside into forests, appreciate passing clouds, feel the exhilaration of wind on their face, skip stones on ponds, and go birdwatching.

Yes, birdwatching is now a doctor-issued prescription.

In the Shetland Islands, if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression or even diabetes, odds are you’ll get a nature prescription. Of course, doctors are not prescribing time in nature as a total alternative to traditional health care, but they’re prescribing nature supplementally.

Spending time in nature is a subtle treatment—compared to traditional meds, the only side effects are dirty fingernails and a feeling of profound serenity—but it really works.

Countless studies have shown that concentration improves, attention span increases, risk for depression decreases, stress hormones go down, inflammatory markers decrease, and blood glucose levels even drop. Nature is an incredibly powerful balancer of the body.

Scotland isn’t alone in accepting nature as a conventional medical treatment.

Even here in the U.S., there are big shifts happening in our relationship with nature. Some doctors in California have started prescribing nature to patients with profound financial or social struggles to help reduce stress and boost happiness.

Meanwhile, REI is donating $1 million to a new academic initiative called ‘Nature for Health‘ to fund research on how to get more people access to green spaces and to fully document the benefits that come with having easy access to green spaces. The study is focusing especially on underprivileged communities or in demographics who are generally underrepresented in the outdoor community.


But spending time in nature hasn’t hit the mainstream just yet. According to the EPA, the average American spends just seven percent of their life outdoors.

It’s clear that we all need more nature in our lives, but you don’t need to fly to Scotland to get yourself a prescription. Just step outside and empower your own health. It’s probably the most life-changing prescription you’ll ever get.



Today’s Extra: These Herbs Can Help Protect You from Pollution

These Herbs Can Help Protect You from Pollution

By: Jordyn Cormier

Adaptogens are substances that help your body tolerate stress, but that doesn’t just mean mental stress—like hitting deadlines or juggling schedules. Adaptogens can be powerful allies in helping our bodies better deal with the stressors of our environment, too.

From growing chemical pollutants to UV damage, here are some of the best adaptogens for serious environmental support.


There are around 80,000 different man-made chemicals infiltrating our daily lives through everyday products and activities.

Cadmium is a highly hazardous and common environmental pollutant, found in car exhaust, cigarette smoke, and even our vegetables. That’s right: years of industrialization have caused this toxic heavy metal to build up in our soil, which poses a serious threat to our produce quality—and our health.

Luckily, holy basil (aka tulsi) bears tremendous potential in detoxifying heavy metals like cadmium from your body. In fact, studies have shown that regular consumption of tulsi can prevent cadmium accumulation and the tissue damage that usually accompanies it.

Other heavy metal-fighting herbs include ashwagandha, ginseng, and gymnema sylvestre.


Intense UV exposure from the sun can result in significant free radical damage, even after just one burn. Golden serpent fern is excellent if you’re looking for a little adaptogenic sun support.

In one study, participants who consumed this herb before exposure to intense sunlight exhibited much less severe inflammation and sun damage than participants who didn’t consume the plant. The evidence is so compelling, some people even call it an ‘internal sunscreen’.

This fern is also packed with antioxidants, inhibits the development of free radicals and may even stimulate collagen production.



The polyphenols found in green tea might actually also bear promise in protecting you from UV damage.

In one study, a group of women was given green tea to drink over the course of a few months, while others drank water. After 12 weeks, the green tea-drinkers experienced a 25 percent reduction in sunburn when exposed to UV light, whereas the water drinkers experienced no change.

The powers of green tea are pretty fascinating. In fact, other research has also shown that it mitigates UV damage to skin cells when applied on the skin as a topical extract.

Of course, adaptogens aren’t going to work miracles if you’re drowning in environmental stressors and pollutants. But, when it comes to fighting the minor, ubiquitous environmental taxes we encounter on a daily basis, adaptogens can provide some much needed support.

Just remember that, when it comes to sun protection, adaptogens are a replacement for a quality SPF sunscreen. Adaptogens can offer tremendous support, but they are NOT interchangeable. (Maybe someday we’ll be eating our sunscreen, but the science just isn’t there yet.)



How to Keep Your Pets Safe During Cold Weather

How to Keep Your Pets Safe During Cold Weather

Are the cold temperatures starting to make you cringe when you go outside? Your pets are likely cringing too. Winter is a time to give your animal friends some extra care and attention to keep the cold at bay. The following tips can help everyone stay safe and warm during the cold season.


This is vital if your pet has particularly short hair. Many breeds and species of pets are from warmer parts of the globe, and they’re simply not equipped to handle the cold. Freezing temperatures can be fatal. Consider pet sweaters, jackets or booties to keep your loved one warm during trips outside.

However, if your pet has long fur or is clearly tolerant of cold temperatures, such as huskies, it may be fine to leave them undressed. Watch them closely for any signs of being too cold, such as reddened skin, shivering or cracked paws. If you see any of these, cover them up next time they go out.


Bring a towel with you on walks to periodically dry your pet’s feet, legs and tummy as you go. Also make sure to give them a good rub-down to dry them off when you’re back home. This serves a few purposes. Being wet will physically rob heat from your pet. In addition, their fur can pick up road salt and de-icing chemicals that need to be removed before they lick them off.


Never shave your pet down to their skin during cold times. You can trim especially long-haired pets to keep them tidy and prevent clinging ice balls, but having a good fur coat will help protect them against frigid temperatures.

It’s also helpful to trim any hair between the toes of long-haired pets. This will prevent snow and ice from building up on their paws.


Staying warm takes energy, and it’s normal for animals to burn more calories during winter. If your pet doesn’t spend much time outside, this likely won’t be an issue for them. But, if they really enjoy long runs outside during winter, pay attention to how much food they’re eating. If they wolf down their usual serving of food and ask for more, it’s very likely they need it.


Don’t bathe your pets as often during the winter. Wet fur takes longer to dry in the cold, which can chill your pet even more. And bathing can deplete their natural oils and cause dry, flaky skin, which is also made worse by cold temperatures. If they do need a bath, get a moisturizing shampoo recommended by your vet.


Use booties or rub petroleum jelly onto your pet’s paws before heading outside. Not only will these help against the cold, they will also provide an extra layer against salt and other potentially dangerous chemicals.

Remember winter can be hard on your car, too. Keep an eye out for new spots or leaks underneath your vehicle and clean them up as soon as possible. Spilled antifreeze, oil, or other fluids can be toxic to pets if they lick them or get them on their paws or fur.


Many pets still love time outside during cold spells, but stay aware of how long they’ve been out. Whether they’re with you or alone, keep their outings short unless you know they’re alright staying out for a while. And don’t ever leave your pet alone in a cold car. A car can act like a refrigerator and hold in the cold, which puts your pet in serious danger.

Try to spend some extra time indoors with your companions and find activities to keep them moving so they still get their needed exercise. If they live outside permanently, make sure they have good shelter to sleep in for the night, and add an extra blanket to their sleeping space. And, of course, give them lots of extra snuggles. This has the added benefit of keeping you warm, too.



Today’s Extra for January 24: Wait, There’s Herbal Tea for Dogs?

Wait, There’s Herbal Tea for Dogs?

Who doesn’t love a good cup of hot herbal tea to soothe anxiety, calm digestion, and make the world seem just a little more peaceful? Well, you’re not the only one who enjoys a good cuppa. That’s right—dogs can benefit from herbal teas, too!


Yes, it sounds a little odd, but similar to humans, herbal tea for dogs can provide some major health benefits.

Depending on the blend, herbal teas can do a lot to soothe stress and anxiety that some dogs can experience when home alone or traveling. They can also soothe digestive upset, support healthy appetite and encourage better digestion—just the thing for combating those stinky dog farts! And certain herbal teas can sweeten up even the nastiest dog breath.

Doesn’t seem quite so crazy anymore, right?!

Of course, dogs aren’t going to beg for herbal tea in the same way they do for a glob of peanut butter or jerky, but many dogs do enjoy it. Dogs with anxiety often seem calmer and more balanced after slurping up certain herbal concoctions—just ask Emma Witkowski, founder of Barking Mad Creations. Her dogs were incredibly anxious after a big move from England to California. New place. New food. So, she gave them herbal tea. The dogs became calmer, more balanced and happier (and so a new business was born)! And for your pup with the nasty garbage breath, herbal tea can make their kisses a lot more bearable—a major plus.


Of course, not all teas are dog-friendly. You shouldn’t give caffeinated tea to your dog, for instance. And when it comes to herbs, make sure your pups are consuming only veterinarian-approved concoctions or blends specially formulated for dogs.

Some dog-friendly herbs Witkowski uses in her blends include:

  • For anxiety soothing: rose petals, passionflower, skullcap, oat tops
  • For digestion support: oregano leaf, astragalus root, chamomile flower, marshmallow root
  • For bad breath: parsley leaf, fennel seeds, cinnamon chips, sage leaf

You can make herbal tea for your pup the same way you make it for yourself. Steep a bag or two (depending on the size of you dog) in boiling water. The only difference is that it is absolutely essential that you let the tea cool completely before serving it to your canine friend. Otherwise, they can get seriously burned.

Always consult your vet before starting your dog on herbal teas, especially if they’re on any prescription medications. But as long as your vet is on board, herbal tea for dogs can be a healthy and safe way to keep your best friend healthy. And your pup is sure to lap it up.


Today’s Extra for Jan. 21: Release Stress with One Simple Technique

Release Stress with One Simple Technique

Ever wondered what the biggest problem in life is? Yes, it’s the inability to relax! This is a true story: I met John at a stress-release workshop I was teaching in Scotland. He was a schoolteacher in a run down area of Glasgow. As if that wasn’t hard enough, he was a history teacher, a subject that most of his pupils were completely uninterested in.

Teaching had become a source of immense stress; John would regularly lose his temper and was planning to quit. I saw him again a year later at a follow-up workshop. John looked refreshed and radiant, so I fully expected to hear that he’d got a different job. Instead, he told me that he’d become head of the department. The difference? John had done nothing other than Yoga Nidra, an ancient yogic relaxation practice that I had taught him, every morning before going to school. This had led to a state of deep calm. As a result, both his attitude and approach at work had radically improved. Being mindfully relaxed is the ultimate life-changing gift we can give ourselves.

Stress is nothing new. Ever since the beginning of time we have encountered stressful situations, such as the cavemen who had to hunt for food and the resulting fight-or-flight dilemma when confronted with wild animals. The stress-producing factors may be different now but they have the same effect. It’s quite amazing to me that after thousands of years we still haven’t figured out how we need to relax! And in our current world situation, relaxation is vital.

Unless we can look at stressful difficulties with mindful awareness then all we really do is create more stress: a tense mind creates greater tension, while a calm and clear mind creates clarity and positivity. When we are stressed then everything becomes an irritation, no matter how well intended. Friendships are lost and families broken as achievements and possessions become more important than kindness and caring.

We can’t hide from stress, but we do take being stressed for granted without doing anything about it until it becomes unmanageable. We think relaxation can be accomplished by indulging in mindless and distracting activities. At times this is true. But more often they become an escape from our inability to cope in a world of conflicting pressures and prejudices. Stress throws us into regrets of the past and fears of the future and we lose the ability to be in the present moment. Meantime guilt, shame and blame create unimaginable scenarios. As the anxiety becomes too much to handle we begin to look outside ourselves for help, such as to alcohol, drugs, or therapy. Such is our ‘normal’ state of being!

Do you get upset or angry when matters don’t go as planned? Do you need to be in control, or can you allow events to take their natural course? Do you believe you are right and so others are wrong? Are you able to see things as they are without prejudice or bias? Do you bear grudges and hold on to things or can you let go and move on? These are important questions to ask ourselves in order to become more tolerant, kind, and relaxed.

Confusion and misunderstanding make us desperate for change, but we don’t know how to bring about the transformation we yearn for. So we change the superficial things, like our hairstyle or clothes, we even have a facelift or hair transplant. All we want is to be wanted! But if we change our lives from within then the outer will also transform. Being mindfully relaxed has a hugely positive effect on our looks, health, on others, and the world we live in. What more could we want?


Ed Shapiro is the author of The Art Of Mindful Relaxation, The Heart of Yoga Nidra. Award-winning Authors Ed and Deb are mindfulness, meditation and yoga experts. Deb is the author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, now in 19 languages. They have six meditation downloads. See more at


Today’s Extra for January 18: 7 Houseplants to Beat the Winter Blues

7 Houseplants to Beat the Winter Blues

Because of their many benefits for mind and body, houseplants are a great way to get through the short days of winter.

I’m a winter woman – I love the frigid air, the snow, the coziness of it all. But the sunsetting-at-4:28-pm business is a bit disconcerting, and for a lot of people, the diminished sunlight is truly problematic. I used to quip that the best way to get through winter is with sunlamps and vodka … to that I should add a more efficacious solution: Houseplants!

The benefits of houseplants are really pretty amazing. From filtering the air and increasing oxygen levels to boosting healing and increasing focus, these humble organisms are some very hardworking allies. (See more on their benefits in the related stories below.) Meanwhile, just their presence in the house can turn up the happiness level. One study from the University of British Columbia concluded that by pondering the nature around you, general happiness and well-being will increase – even if that “nature” is living in a pot on your windowsill.

With all of this in mind, I think it’s officially time to add some houseplants to the prescription list for winter blues. Here are some great ones to start with.

Today’s Extra: 7 Ways to Give Yourself More Free Time

7 Ways to Give Yourself More Free Time

Are you happy with the amount of free time you have? Time with no obligations, when you can relax and do whatever you want? For many of us, unscheduled free time is at a premium. Between work, family and other obligations, there’s very little “me” time left at the end of the day.

But research shows having adequate free time is vital for your mental and physical health. Free time helps reduce stress, increase concentration and productivity, enhance your problem-solving ability, and can even improve your relationships.

So, how much free time is enough? A survey by Oranje Casino found that people were happiest when they had at least 4-5 hours of free time per day. This may sound like an unreachable goal, but some basic steps can help you reclaim your free time and the benefits that come with it.


What would your ideal day look like? If you’re not sure, try considering this question and write down the most important things that come to mind.

Also, what would you do with more free time if you had it? Simply having a clear vision of what you really want can help clarify what action you need to take to achieve it.

This exercise can also help you see what you should be prioritizing in your life, and what may need to go.


Are you simply filling your free time, or are you using it to do things that recharge your mental and physical energy? There’s a big difference.

A British study found that the quality of your free time is more important than the quantity. Time spent doing what you love can lead to better work-life balance and greater overall wellbeing. This means using your fee time purposefully can maximize the benefits you receive from it, even if you aren’t getting in as many free hours as you’d like.

Start by taking a close look at what you currently do in your free time. Maybe keep a journal for a week and note what you do for how long. Then look for patterns. Do you do some things out of habit that aren’t really necessary, like channel surfing when you know there’s nothing on TV you want to watch?

Aim to remove time “fillers” like these and replace them with activities you’re excited about. In Oranje Casino’s survey, the respondents’ top choices for spending their free time included socializing with loved ones, relaxing and practicing mindfulness, learning a skill, exercising and being entertained.

Try scheduling your favorite revitalizing activities as appointments to make sure you include them throughout your week.


Taking time out from technological distractions can give you a better perspective on how electronic devices can be unnecessarily consuming huge chunks of your time.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can start by taking some time out from devices for an hour in the evening, or over lunch. But take that time to do unplugged things you enjoy and reflect on how technology has impacted your life.

And when you start reintroducing technology back into your life, make sure you’re only using your devices in ways that improve your life. If you find yourself starting to waste time on them, turn them off and get back to doing what’s important to you.


Grouping smaller tasks together can save a huge amount of time. An excellent example is checking your email. Rather than checking your inbox regularly throughout the day, set aside one or two time slots to read and reply to email. Otherwise, don’t let it disrupt your day. The same goes for social media and many other online activities.

You can also try keeping an ongoing shopping list, but only go shopping once a week. You can do meal prep and cooking in large batches, do all your weekly paperwork at once, or group anything else you do on a regular basis.

And you can rest assured that binge-watching your favorite shows is actually more efficient than tuning in once per week. You don’t have to feel guilty anymore, you’re actually saving time.


Sometimes it makes sense to delegate tasks to other people when appropriate, or outsource tasks and pay others to do them. This can be true at work or at home.

At work, look for tasks you may have taken on that don’t belong to your position, which may be leading to overload and cutting into your personal free time. Check if these can be taken on by other coworkers to give yourself more space.

At home, make sure everyone is involved in house tasks. Your spouse, kids and roommates can all take a share of the household responsibilities, such as cooking, cleaning and running errands. Even if you have small children, you can include them in age-appropriate chores.

Also investigate what you can afford to pay others to do for you. Oranje Casino’s survey found that people would most like to outsource cleaning services in their home. Other areas you could look at outsourcing are yard maintenance, home repairs or shopping services.


You can use short gaps of time that would otherwise be wasted, such as breaks at work, waiting for dinner to cook, standing in line or driving. You can use these times to fit in small, practical tasks or consider them free time for briefly recharging yourself.

As you’re waiting, you can formulate shopping lists or your upcoming schedule in your head, and write it down if possible. Some errands, cleaning tasks or other small jobs can be done in 5- or 10-minute gaps. You can also read a book, phone a friend or even do a short meditation. has a great 5-minute meditation you can try.


Warren Buffet, the well-known investor and entrepreneur, once said “the difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”

You don’t have to say “no” to almost everything, but saying “yes” isn’t always as helpful as it may appear to be. We often agree to do things for other people because we’re afraid of being judged or criticized, or afraid we’ll miss out on something.

Saying “no” isn’t about being disagreeable. It’s about respecting yourself and establishing healthy boundaries with other people. And you can find ways to respectfully say “no” to others without being aggressive.

Research has shown the most effective way to refuse something is to say “I don’t”. This works when speaking to other people, or even for self talk. For example, one study showed that women who told themselves “I don’t miss workouts” were 50 percent more likely to stick with their workout goals than those who told themselves to “just say no” when they were tempted to skip out.



Today’s Extra for January 11: Are Indoor Fireplaces Safe for Your Health?

Are Indoor Fireplaces Safe for Your Health?

Cozying up to a glowing fireplace is a cold-weather tradition. But don’t get too comfortable. In certain situations, that crackling fire can be very unsafe. Here are five hazardous health effects of fireplaces, as well as how to practice indoor fireplace safety to mitigate those risks.


There are four main types of fireplaces that people typically have in their homes: wood-burning, gas, electric and ethanol. And it’s usually the wood-burning fires that release the most dangerous toxins into the air (though the other types pose risks, as well).

When wood burns, it releases a mixture of potentially harmful gases and fine particles. “Wood smoke contains several toxic harmful air pollutants including: benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This pollutes indoor air (as well as outdoor air) and can trigger several health problems, such as respiratory issues and lung cancer. And you’re not in the clear if you burn synthetic logs, as they’ve been associated with some serious health issues, including breast cancer.


Wood and gas fireplaces have the ability to release dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide in a home. “Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels are burned such as gasoline, natural gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal,” according to the American Lung Association. And because carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless and tasteless, it can easily accumulate to toxic levels if the fireplace isn’t venting properly.

Carbon monoxide prevents the body from getting the oxygen it needs. Breathing in small amounts can result in headaches, nausea, dizziness and confusion, according to the American Lung Association. And inhaling larger levels can have much more serious consequences, including loss of consciousness and death. So it’s critical to consistently maintain your fireplace, check the venting often and use a carbon monoxide detector.


Besides carbon monoxide poisoning, the mixture of gases and particles that certain fireplaces (mainly wood-burning) emit can trigger many other health problems, including respiratory conditions. “That’s because smoke from these fires contains small particles that can get into your eyes and respiratory system,” according to Cleveland Clinic. “The result can be burning eyes, a runny nose and illnesses such as bronchitis.”

The tiny particles can find their way deep into your lungs and bloodstream — exacerbating preexisting conditions, such as asthma. And even healthy people might feel temporarily ill. “Fine particles can also trigger heart attacks, stroke, irregular heart rhythms, and heart failure, especially in people who are already at risk for these conditions,” according to the EPA. Children, older adults and people with heart and lung issues are the most vulnerable.


Using your fireplace correctly isn’t without risks. But burning inappropriate items can make the situation much more dangerous. “These materials can release toxic or harmful chemicals when burned, and may damage your appliance,” according to the EPA. Items you never should burn include:

  • Household trash — including plastic, cardboard, foam, rubber and anything with colored ink
  • Painted or treated wood
  • Driftwood, plywood, particle board or any other wood with glue
  • Wet, rotten or diseased wood
  • Manure and animal remains

Plus, consider what’s around your fireplace that might be receiving some of its warmth. For instance, if your fires continuously heat a nearby decoration with toxic paint or the plastic of a faux Christmas tree, that might release unhealthy chemicals into the air. So it’s best to be overly cautious about what that warm glow can touch.


Speaking of what’s within the flames’ reach, another risk of indoor fireplaces is injury or property destruction from the fire itself. Fireplaces, chimneys and chimney connectors accounted for 31 percent of house fires in the United States between 2011 and 2015, according to the National Fire Protection Association. (Space heaters were the No. 1 culprit.) And the leading factor contributing to those house fires was failure to clean the equipment — especially chimneys.

Plus, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, young children receive the most injuries from fireplaces. Many injuries stem from a person being too close to the flames, though some occur from improper fireplace use or damaged equipment. Regardless, it’s critical to make indoor fireplace safety a priority if you intend to build a fire.


A properly functioning fireplace should pose the fewest health and safety risks. So here are some indoor fireplace safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to protect you and your family.

  • Have adequate ventilation. Keep a window cracked as your fire is burning, and make sure the damper or flue is open until the embers are completely out. Look for animal nests and other blockages in the chimney.
  • Use dry, aged wood. This produces less smoke and soot in wood-burning fireplaces. Plus, using smaller pieces of wood also results in less smoke.
  • Clean ashes from previous fires. A thicker layer of ash makes a fire smoke more.
  • Have a professional inspect your fireplace and chimney annually. And look for red flags every time you use it.
  • Keep the area around your fireplace clear. Install safety screens if you have kids or pets, and keep fireplace tools out of their reach.
  • Never leave a fire unattended. Make sure it is completely out before going to bed or leaving for an extended period.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby. Plus, install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Verify regularly that they’re all functional.

So should you ditch your dreams of curling up next to a cozy fire on a cold night? Not necessarily. As long as you know the health and safety risks, you can weigh the pros and cons for your individual situation and decide which type of fireplace is right for you.