Are hot water bottles dangerous?

Have you ever stopped to think and ask yourself the question are hot water bottles dangerous?

Why people use hot water bottles and what is the worry?

In the cold of winter, we all look for ways to keep warm.  With the price of fuel so high, many try to avoid having the heating on all days long.  Using blankets and wearing extra clothing can help.  Many people also will use a hot water bottle.  They can be very helpful for keeping warm, as well as comforting.  However, using a poor quality, or an old hot water bottle, or filling it directly from the kettle can have extremely serious consequences.

This clip below is a short 5 minute video from Australia. (You wouldn’t have they needed to use hot water bottles often?!).  Please take a few moments to watch the video.  It helps to highlight the dangers associated with hot water bottles and to answer the question ‘Are hot water bottles dangerous?’.

As shown in the video, the use of hot water bottles can present a serious risk of scalding.

Filling a hot water bottle

Never be tempted to fill a hot water bottle from a kettle.  Instead, hot water bottles should be filled from the hot water tap no more than ¾ full.  Remember that excess air should be expelled before the hot water bottle is securely fastened.  For Care Workers asked by a client or their relative to fill the hot water bottle from a kettle, it is important that you don’t do this and explain the reasons why.  Also, report this back to your manager who can reinforce this important safety message to clients and their family.

Checking a hot water bottle

Before using a hot water bottle, you should always examine it.  Only hot water bottles that have been manufactured to British Standard BS 1970:2012 (indicated by a daisy-like symbol on the surface) should be used.   Alos, check to try and spot any cracks, fading or small holes in the hot water bottle.  If you find any, the hot water bottle, must not be used and should be thrown away. 

Care Workers, if you think a hot water bottle is not safe to use, explain the reasons why to the client, and advise that they throw it away.  You could also offer to help organise buying a new hot water bottle that is safe to use.  As we saw in the video, it is a good idea to buy a new hot water bottle every year.  If in any doubt about the safety of the hot water bottle, do not use it.  Remember to report the issue to your manager and to document your concerns and actions in your care notes.

Using a hot water bottle

Another thing to be wary of is that hot water bottles should never be placed in direct contact with the skin.  A cover must be used to help prevent burns and insulate the bottle so it stays warm for longer.   The hot water bottle should be positioned so that the user is not sitting or lying on it.  The increased pressure form sitting or lying on a hot water bottle can cause it to burst leading to potentially serious burns.  

We all know how serious burins can be.  Clearly, we are best to avoid and reduce the risk wherever possible.   This page from the NHS outlines how to treat burns and scolds.

One final note of caution.  A reminder to never use a hot water bottle at the same time as using an electric blanket.

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Gardiner's Homecare