Fall brings us the fun- filled day of Halloween! It is the perfect time for candy, pumpkins, spooky costumes and even a little magic or fog! Do you know what creates this spooky fog? It is none other than dry ice!
This solid, frozen form of carbon dioxide is the same gas that is found in the bubbles of soda pop. Dry ice does not melt into a liquid but instead goes directly from a solid state to a gas state through a process called sublimation. At this time of year, many people use dry ice to add a dash of spook to cocktails or give their porch that desirable “haunted house” look. Even though dry ice can be purchased at a party supply store, it must be handled with extreme caution because of its extremely cold temperature ( -110º F [-78º C])!
Here’s a quick run-down of the DO’s and DON’TS of dry ice:
- Do wear protective clothing when handling dry ice; preferably leather gloves to prevent frostbite.
- Don’t store dry ice in a freezer as its extreme temperature can cause a freezer’s thermostat to turn off.
- Do store dry ice in an insulated container. This will slow the rate at which the dry ice becomes a gas.
- Don’t store ice in an unventilated room or area. This practice can result in lower concentration of oxygen which may pose health risks for individuals with heart problems or history of strokes.
- Do get plenty of fresh air when handling dry ice to prevent breathing in too much carbon dioxide. Get fresh air immediately if your lips or fingers start to turn blue or you feel drowsy, nauseous or develop a headache.
- Don’t close your car windows down when transporting the dry ice. Make sure fresh air is circulating through your vehicle.
- Do place a few pieces dry ice in a small bowl with hot water on top of your punch, instead of directly in the punch bowl. This will protect your guests and still keep your punch looking ghostly. Direct contact with dry ice may result in throat burning. Ouch!
Skin burns from dry ice should be handled in the same manner as skin burns from heat. Contact your physician if you start to see blisters on your skin. An antibiotic ointment and bandages may be needed to prevent any infection and to protect the area from further damage or infection.
Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, you can always contact the Illinois Poison Center (IPC) at 1-800-222-1222. As always, have a safe, Happy Halloween, everyone!