Electric blankets are plug-in devices that contain integrated heating wires, as the weather turns colder heading into Winter, this is the time of year people start to pull them out of storage. People often forget the importance of fire safety while using electric blankets, but they can overheat and become potential fire risks. There are around 43 electric blanket fires each year in the UK. The most common causes of these are overheating of the heating element or other component, and the electric arcing of a broken electrical conductor, causing flammable materials to ignite.
What are the potential safety risks of using an electric blanket?
The main safety risks of using an electric blanket are fires, burns and people with certain health conditions.
When using an electric blanket, it’s always important to examine it before use, especially if it has been in storage over the warmer months. If you notice any of the following danger signs with your electric blanket it could be a potential fire risk and should be replaced:
It’s lovely to cosy up underneath a heated blanket on cold nights but you can accidentally fall asleep with them on which can cause fire and safety risks in itself. There are a few reasons for this, it can cause overheating especially in young children or the elderly as they might not have the awareness or ability to react to the prolonged exposure to heat. Furthermore, if the heating pad has direct contact with bare skin for prolonged periods of time, this can potentially lead to burns.
How to keep an electric blanket safe?
There are things you can do to keep your electric blanket safe for use, including:
When should you not use an electric blanket?
There are some situations where using a heated blanket in your home is not suitable and should be avoided.
Who should avoid using an electric blanket?
There are certain demographics who should avoid using electric blankets. The following individuals should always speak with a health professional for advice before using an electric blanket.
Electric blankets produce non-ionizing radiation which may not be safe for pregnant women.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that currently, the evidence does not confirm any health consequences from environmental electromagnetic fields and that it does not increase the risk of any adverse outcomes for pregnant women. They also acknowledge that there are still currently some gaps in knowledge and that further research is needed.
Those with Diabetes
Those suffering from diabetes are advised to avoid high temperatures. They may also have difficulty feeling temperatures and not be aware if they are getting too hot. Always remove your electric blanket from your bed before going to sleep.
Older adults can have issues with sensitivity to temperature changes and may be unaware they are overheating.
Older Adults suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s are not recommended to use electric blankets without monitoring from their carers as they may have issues with regulating their own temperature.
The NHS recommends that babies should never sleep with an electric blanket because they are very susceptible to overheating. Children under five may not be able to communicate or have the awareness to react to the temperature being too high for them. Another point to consider is, if an older child is still wetting the bed then you should avoid the use of electric blankets altogether. Parents should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on suitability for children.
Electric Blankets can also pose risks to others besides the above individuals:
Although you may think you’re doing your furry friend a favour by letting them cuddle up under your electric blanket, unfortunately, it can cause overheating due to the differences in the way our bodies regulate temperature. There are pet-friendly heat pads that are available and designed specifically with your pets in mind
How should you use an electric blanket safely?
A modern electric blanket is considered, on the whole, generally safe if used correctly and the provided instructions are followed. The following tips for proper use can be used to increase your safety:
Choosing the right electric blanket for you
When looking to purchase electric blankets there are a few things to consider.
Aico is the European market leader in home life safety and has years of experience in residential fire safety. For further information about keeping safe this winter check out our Winter Home Safety blog.
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