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Cold season: Be careful using jiko inside house

A ceramic charcoal jiko.
A ceramic jiko made by Cookswell Jikos. Photo by Cookswell Jikos.

During cold season people are most likely to use charcoal jiko to warm themselves. But burning charcoal releases carbon monoxide which can accumulate to dangerous levels in enclosed house. Breathing high levels of carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness and death.

Kenya Meteorological Department’s June-July-August report shows that 15 counties, including Nairobi, will experience cool and cloudy condition. Other counties are Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Kiambu, Meru, Embu and Tharaka Nithi.

In addition to the above counties are Marsabit, Isiolo, Kajiado, Machakos, Kitui and Makueni.

These 15 counties will have prolonged hours of overcast skies (cloudy conditions) resulting in cold and chilly conditions.

“A few days may turn out to be extremely cold with daytime temperatures falling below 18C,” says the department.

The department advised Kenyans to avoid using jiko in closed houses.

“It is advisable that during chilly days, jikos in poorly ventilated houses should be avoided as burning charcoal produces carbon monoxide gas that is lethal when inhaled,” it said.

How does carbon monoxide poisoning occur?

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas. It’s a by-product of combustion from burning fuel such as oil, gas, wood and charcoal.

Red blood cells pick carbon monoxide quicker than they pick up oxygen. If there is a lot of carbon monoxide in the air, the body may replace oxygen in blood with carbon monoxide.

This can trigger symptoms including shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness and headaches. If you are sleeping or have been drinking alcohol you could die of carbon monoxide poisoning without ever noticing symptoms.

If you suspect you’re experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning get fresh air into your lungs immediately by opening windows or going outside. Then seek medical help from a doctor.

Respiratory diseases

Kenya Meteorological Department says cold conditions could cause asthma, pneumonia, flu and common cold in 12 counties.

The counties are Nairobi, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Kiambu, Meru, Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Narok, Nakuru and Nyahururu.

The respiratory diseases could also occur in parts of Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kakamega, Nandi, Vihiga and Bungoma counties.

The department advises people in the counties to wear warm clothes to protect themselves from the diseases.

“Cases of respiratory diseases like asthma, pneumonia, flu and common cold are likely to increase due to the expected cool or cold conditions,” it said. “The general public is advised to adopt warm dress codes and follow advice from the health authorities.”

March-April-May 2021 rainfall season

The department said the March to May 2021 seasonal rainfall had ended over several parts of the country.

But rainfall is continuing in 26 counties in Lake Victoria basin, western Kenya and in the Coast region.

The counties are Kisii, Busia, Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisumu, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kakamega, Nandi, Vihiga and Bungoma.

Narok, Nakuru, Nyahururu, Laikipia, Baringo, Bomet, Kericho, Lamu, Tana River, Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale also continue to receive rainfall.

In April and May 2021, several parts of the country received near to below average rainfall. An assessment of the rainfall recorded from 1 March to 25 May 2021 shows that the rainfall was near average to below average over most parts of the country.

Only Eldoret, Lodwar and Meru recorded rainfall that was above their March-April-May average rainfall.

The department says 13 counties in arid and Coastal regions could lack food because they received inadequate rainfall. In addition, the counties are expected to face dry conditions.

The counties are Mandera, Wajir, Isiolo, Garissa, Kitui, Makueni, Taita Taveta, Kajiado, Lamu, Tana River, Kilifi, Mombasa and Kwale.

About Kaburu Mugambi

Kaburu Mugambi is a veteran of business reporting having worked with two national newspapers in Kenya. He is a graduate of economics from Kenyatta University. He started his journalism career in 2000 with The People Daily as a business reporter before becoming a business sub-editor. He joined Daily Nation in 2004 as a business writer. He holds a post-graduate diploma in mass communication from University of Nairobi's School of Journalism and an MBA in marketing from the same university. In 2016, he founded Water Tower, a media firm focused on water, energy and climate. Its content cuts across water, energy and climate with emphasis on adaptation and sustainability.

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