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Lifestyle

The Dangers of Heated Blankets

ChiliSleep Staff

01.29.21

puppy under electric blanket

A heated blanket or electric blanket may be useful in the cold months when you have no other source of warmth. However, there are some instances where they are bad for you and you shouldn’t use them.

HERE’S THE SCENARIO:

The holidays have just ended. It is extremely cold in your rural home, and it’s snowing outside. It’s well below freezing, in fact.

You live in an older home that isn’t very well insulated, and the heater is broken. You’ve got a fireplace, but you haven’t got any wood to burn in it.

Your dryer is broken, and your blankets are all hanging to dry (read: frozen stiff) because an ice dam on the roof caused the ceiling above your bed to cave in and flood.

The snow has piled so high, you’re snowed into this icebox otherwise called your home.

In short, it’s dangerously cold in your house and you’re red-cheeked, sniffling, and sneezing. Luckily for you, you’ve got an electric blanket!

This scenario, my friends, is the only time you should ever use an electric blanket.

ARE HEATED BLANKETS UNSAFE?

Let's unpack the potential issues of heated blankets.

DANGER #1: EMF EXPOSURE

First and foremost, some electric blankets can be harmful to your health.

Leading advocates for the disuse of electric blankets due to the associated health risks argue that the use of these products enhances your risk of being diagnosed with cancer, decreased fertility in men, and pregnancy problems for women.

All this is correlated with the EMF (electromagnetic fields) to which electric blanket users are exposed.

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.

DANGER #2: 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 a heated blanket, 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 #3: 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.

OTHER RISKS

The exact danger level electric blankets present to the health of those using them is debatable, but on a basic level, it seems common sense that wrapping yourself in electricity on a consistent basis may pose hazards to your wellbeing.

Beyond the long-term health consequences associated with the use of electric blankets, there are also clear and present dangers associated in real-time with their use. It is possible to overheat while using electric blankets.

With all the potential risks associated with the use of electric blankets, the operative question becomes, “Why are people using these dangerous electric blankets?” The only common-sense answer would be, “Because there is no alternative.”

IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE TO ELECTRIC BLANKETS?

There are many, better, and safer alternatives. Here are just a few.

Blankets: That’s right—try a good, old-fashioned, non-electric blanket to get snug as a bug. Some of the warmest materials for blankets are wool, cotton fleece, and cashmere. You can double down on warmth by making sure your sheets are made from these warmer materials as well.

More Blankets: If one is warm, then two is undoubtedly warmer. If you’re still cold, keep piling on the blankets until you’re weighed down in warmth.

Warm Clothes: Sometimes a thick pair of pajamas is all it takes to keep cozy when it’s cold out. You could even channel your inner cartoon character and wear a long winter hat with a fuzzy tassel at the end. Santa may or may not be real, but if he is real, he’s definitely not really cold, even at the North Pole.

Hot Water Bottles: However old fashioned it may be, the hot water bottle is still effective. That said, keeping a plastic container with boiling hot water at the foot of your bed is hardly peril free.

In addition to risks associated with using this antiquated method (for instance, “accidents” at the foot of the bed from the ancient bottle springing a leak), there is also a time limit to the efficacy of this method. The heat dissipates with every minute the hot water bottle is exposed to the laws of thermodynamics. But you won’t have to worry about setting your alarm because once the heat wears off, the cold will wake you up!

Chili Sleep Systems: Consider this the proverbial angel on your shoulder, as opposed to the devil that is the electric blanket. Chili products are often lauded for the cooling environment they create for optimal sleep optimization, but they're no one-trick pony.

They are temperature-controlled mattress pads that fit over your mattress and under your bedsheets. You can operate the system anywhere between 55–115 degrees Fahrenheit and can utilize chiliPAD or OOLER to keep you warm if you’re feeling cold. Or use our new temperature controlled weighted blankets the chiliBLANKET.

All this is accomplished in a safe, EMF-free environment, as the chiliPAD, OOLER and chiliBLANKET utilize no electricity in the pads themselves. They merely circulate water through silicone tubes and will steadily heat or cool that water to the optimal temperature of your preference.

Chili sleep systems can keep you cool as a cucumber or hot as a chili pepper. This is my personal heating and cooling preference because you can choose the exact temperature of your sleeping environment, and you don’t have to sacrifice health, safety, or convenience for the sake of comfort.

Now you know about the dangers of electric blankets and some healthy, more effective alternatives. You have no excuse not to throw away that electric blanket, ASAP… unless you’re snowed into an old house with no blankets, firewood, or a working heater. That is the only reason you should ever use an electric blanket.

References:

https://www.sleepypeople.com/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-electric-blankets

https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/emf/index.cfm

https://www.electricblanketfires.com/causes-of-heating-pad-fires/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/150091-the-dangers-of-electric-blankets/

About ChiliSleep Staff

ChiliSleep’s award-winning content team -- journalists, writers, and researchers -- report on a mix of innovative scientific studies, emerging sleep tech trends, and personal wellness topics.