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Laptop chargers: doctors warn against the risk of burns

In the United States, a 19-year-old woman who had fallen asleep with her charger plugged into her bed was awakened by a burn in her neck.

This is a reflex that some have adopted in recent years: plug in your mobile phone all night near your pillow. A habit that is not without risk. Recently, a 19-year-old woman woke up with a burn all around her neck, after falling asleep with her trendy charger whose wire was dragging in her bed. A not-so-rare accident, reported in the medical journal Annals of Emergency Medicine

Shortly after falling asleep, the young woman was suddenly awakened by a burning sensation and a strong pain all around her neck. Panicked, she tore off the metal collar she was wearing and rushed to the emergency room at CS Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan, USA. When she arrived, she had no other symptoms than this burn.

The mystery elucidated

The young woman told the doctors she had fallen asleep with the wire of her phone charger under the pillow. It was plugged into a jack, but her phone was not charging. The doctors quickly made the connection: “We think that his injury was caused by the electric current from the charger, the end of which probably touched her collar, which allowed the current to pass,” they write in their report.

The doctors then decided to give her an angiogram (X-ray of the blood vessels) and an electrocardiogram, to make sure that neither the blood system nor the heart was affected. Indeed, “the severity of a burn may not be visible on clinical examination,” remind doctors. “This is why a thorough evaluation of the underlying blood vessels and soft tissues may be necessary.”

After the wound was healed, the young woman returned home with painkillers. Finally, it could have been worse: this type of accident can not only cause burns, but also electrification. Not to be confused with electrocution, which refers to electrification leading to death, electrification is the passage of an electric current through the body, causing various injuries ranging from severe muscle contractions to momentary respiratory arrest.

Attention to sub-brand loaders

“All devices using a USB charger can cause this type of accident,” say doctors. These include Apple or Android devices, tablets, laptops, electronic cigarettes, smart watches, and small fans and ebooks. Doctors are particularly cautious about sub-brand or counterfeit magazines. A study published in January 2019 showed that 99% of the 400 generic iphone chargers tested did not pass the electrical safety tests.

“You have to tell people not to sleep with their phone charging in the bed or to leave their charger plugged in, whether or not it’s connected to the phone,” the doctors insist. “Consumers should also avoid generic chargers to reduce the risk of injury.”

Helen Pruden
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