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The Scary Reason You Should Think Twice Before Charging Your Phone in Bed

Reader's Digest logo Reader's Digest 7/13/2017 Marissa Laliberte

© Shutterstock If you like to fall asleep scrolling through Facebook, you might want to find a new nighttime habit. Not only does using your phone get in the way of your sleep, but it could cause an even bigger safety risk.

A post from the Newton Fire Department in New Hampshire recently went viral with a scary warning. The department shared photos from an English mom whose teenage daughter fell asleep with her phone charging under her pillow. When the 16 year old woke up, her phone was so hot it almost burned her hand. It didn’t smoke or start a fire, but it did leave alarming scorch marks on her pillow, according to Daily Mail.

The big risk is exposed wires, which were probably behind the fire from the teen’s phone, says Brad Nichols, technician with technology repair service company Staymobile. 'Any time you’re working with damaged electronics or exposed wiring, there’s always a fire risk,' he says. 'If you have a frayed cable or anything else like that, it’s better to replace it than to try to mend or repair it, especially with how cheap they are.' Just don’t damage your phone with an off-brand charger.

Most phones without defects probably won’t overheat and cause a fire, but it’s not impossible, says Nichols. Plugging your phone in and putting it down on your bed probably won’t do any damage. But the risk goes up if it’s working overtime and slips under your pillow.

When you drain or charge your battery, your phone lets off heat—and when you drain your battery by using it while it’s trying to charge, it gets even hotter, Nichols says. 'The problem is when it’s covered with cloth and doesn’t allow the heat to escape,' he says. So a pillow or blanket smothering your already-overheating phone could be an accident waiting to happen.

Just sleeping with your phone probably isn’t a fire hazard, though. After all, it’s not getting any less breathing room under your covers than it would in your pocket, says Nichols. 'But if you have a combination of worst-case scenarios—a manufacturer defect, charging phone, playing music or watching videos—and you fall asleep, you could definitely generate enough heat to cause a problem,' he says. 'But I haven’t heard of any cases of fire where there was not a manufacturer defect.'

To be safe, you could stick with manufacturers’ guidelines: Charge on a flat surface with no flammable materials around, and don’t use it when it’s plugged in. But Nichols says just keeping an eye on your phone is a good bet.

If your phone does start to overheat, whether from the sun or charging, turn it off to help it cool down. 'If it’s so hot you can’t touch it, there’s most likely something wrong with it,' Nichols says. Take it to your phone’s carrier or a repair service to make sure it’s not a safety risk.

Gallery: Is Your House a Death Trap? 11 Accidents Waiting to Happen (And How to Avoid Them) Unattended candles: Candles certainly set a mood, but they can also set fire to your home. The National Fire Protection Association notes in their 2015 report that between 2009 and 2013, U.S. fire departments responded to about <a href="http://www.nfpa.org/news-and-research/fire-statistics-and-reports/fire-statistics/fire-causes/candles">9,300 home structure fires</a> that were caused by candles, with over a third of them occurring in the bedroom. (Here are more <a href="http://www.rd.com/health/wellness/winter-dangers/1">winter dangers to watch out for</a>.) Lieutenant Thomas Murphy of the <a href="http://www.belmontnh.org/departmentfire.asp">Belmont, New Hampshire Fire Department </a>warns against leaving candles unattended, especially when they're placed near an open window where a breeze can send the flame flying onto flammable items, and if you have pets, as they can easily knock a candle over. If you have pets, consider investing in <a href="http://www.lucidcandle.com">Lucid</a> refillable candles, which automatically extinguish when they tip sideways. Is Your House a Death Trap? 11 Accidents Waiting to Happen (And How to Avoid Them)

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