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Why Are Electric Blankets and Heating Pads So Dangerous?

Tara Youngblood

02.21.20

Why Are Electric Blankets and Heating Pads So Dangerous?

In the dead of winter, all we want is to be warm when we climb into our beds. While most of us are lucky enough to have a roof and four walls (along with a thermostat) to help us in this regard, often it’s still not enough, at least at the start of the night.

Many people turn to electric blankets or heating pads to ensure that they’re warm enough at bedtime. When using these products, it’s important to understand their impact; we’ve talked many times about how regulating your temperature can help you get more deep sleep, which restores you mentally and physically overnight. When you consider that your core body temperature will drop to its lowest point during this sleep stage, using electric blankets or heating pads might not be the best solution if you want to get a restorative night’s sleep.

Of course, one of the first tips for using an electric blanket or heating pad is to never leave it on overnight. So today we’ll discuss some specific heating pad/electric blanket dangers, and offer some quick tips to ensure safety. Because while these products offer much-needed warmth, in the end, that warmth might not be worth the risk when you consider that there are other viable—and safer—temperature-regulating options you can use instead.

Danger #1: Fire Hazard

It’s a general rule of thumb: whenever you’re using electricity, there’s the potential for fire. When you consider that an electric blanket or heating pad is constructed of wires and additional components, all it takes is one of those wires to become crimped or frayed to cause a life-threatening scenario (which is also why they should never be folded or have anything else on top of them while in use). According to electricblanketfires.com, the most common mechanical causes of heating pad fires are:

  • Frayed wires
  • Holes in the fabric
  • Sparking from the wiring, plug, or outlet
  • An improperly functioning on/off switch or temperature control
  • Lack of automatic shutoff

So if you’re planning to use one, make sure you inspect it thoroughly before use.
Bonus Safety Tip: We mentioned not folding a blanket while in use, but if you can avoid folding or rolling the blanket for storage, that can help you avoid damaging the wires, too.

Danger #2: Burns

Heating products, especially those with high settings, also have the potential to burn users. Children and the elderly are the most at risk since they might not have the awareness or ability to handle a dangerous situation, which can lead to serious injuries or, in extreme scenarios, death. (In fact, statistics show that 89% of individuals who died from electric blanket-related incidents were over 66.) Per sleepjudge.com, people with diabetes are uniquely endangered since they often suffer from neuropathy, which means they have reduced sensation in their extremities, and might not know their electric blanket or heating pad has overheated until it’s too late.

Bonus Safety Tip: Per that article on sleepjudge.com, “It’s important that anyone with reduced sensation, inability to communicate, or diminished capacity not use electric blankets.” Pregnant women should be wary as well since you don’t want to raise your body temperature more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit or it could be harmful to the baby.

Danger #3: EMF Exposure

Like any electrical appliance, electric blankets and heating pads emit EMFs. While scientists don’t agree on how damaging they can ultimately be, there’s one thing that can’t be argued: if a product emits EMFs, the last thing you want is for it to be on top of your body, especially for extended periods of time. Many people go as far as removing EMF-emitting devices from their bedroom, which includes laptops, cell phones, and other devices and appliances.

Safety Tip: There are temperature-regulating blankets that use hydro-powered designs, which ultimately makes them EMF-free. And, if you’re open to something other than a blanket, there are plenty of solutions that can help you regulate your temperature while you sleep.

Stay Warm, But Stay Safe, Too

When used carefully, electric blankets and heating pads can be effective in chasing away the chill. You just need to follow all the safety tips discussed here (and elsewhere!), and then decide if the risks are worth the warming effect. As you know, we’re definitely fans of temperature regulation at bedtime, and everyone is different as far as the level of coolness or warmth that will help them achieve peak sleep. With experimentation and the right product, you’ll find the right combination that will keep you catching Z’s more easily, and more safely.

Do you have safe tricks for staying warm during the frigid winter months? We’d love to hear them, so feel free to pass them along to us, as well as your fellow readers.