Safety alert: Hot water bottles

An ED nurse says more people than ever are presenting with third-degree burns from old hot water bottles that have burst

As we head smack-bang into the middle of winter, many people are dragging their hot water bottles out of storage and are relying on them to stay warm.

However these devices can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

And this year, it seems more people than ever are using very old bottles that are bursting, leaving them with severe injuries.

“I’ve never seen as many third-degree burns from burst hot water bottles as I have this winter,” says the emergency department nurse, who prefers not to be named.

“People are using old hot water bottles that they haven’t replaced – which then burst and cover them with boiling hot water.”

Hot water bottles can also cause burns if placed directly on the skin, and often the user cannot feel these burns until it is too late.

This often leads to third-degree burns and may require skin grafts.

Younger and older people, as well as diabetics, are more vulnerable to serious burns.

How to help

Please let your customers know that all hot water bottles are marked with a ‘daisy wheel’ date, which indicates when the bottle was made – helping them to track when it is time to get a new one.

Product Safety Australia explains:

Each of the 12 segments in the daisy wheel represents a month of the year, starting with January at the top, progressing clockwise until the 12th segment, which represents December.

The last segment in a clockwise direction with dots indicates the month the bottle was made.

Each dot in the last segment with dots in it represents the week of the month the bottle was made. For example, three dots equals the third week.

This daisy wheel shows that the manufacturer produced this bottle in the third week of February in 2008.

Tips from Product Safety Australia:

  • Buy a new hot water bottle every year. Hot water bottles that are in good condition on the outside may be damaged on the inside.
  • Check the daisy wheel date when buying a new bottle and note the year of manufacture. If it is more than 3 years old and/or appears aged or faded, don’t buy it.
  • Do not overfill a hot water bottle and never use boiling water or scalding hot tap water.
  • Examine the hot water bottle before using and throw it away if it leaks, looks cracked, damaged, brittle, worn or faded.
  • Always use a hot water bottle cover or wrap the bottle in a towel or fabric to prevent the bottle being in direct contact with the skin.
  • Remove hot water bottle from bed before going to bed to avoid rolling onto it and bursting it. Do not lie, rest or put pressure or weight on a hot water bottle.
  • Store the hot water bottle by hanging it upside down with the stopper removed in a dark, dry place and make sure it is completely dry inside and out before putting away.
  • Note on your bottle the year and month it is due to be replaced.

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