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Warm Pads - CHOICE # 363

  • 2007.01.16

Warm pads of all descriptions seem to be accident-prone.

As the cold weather sets in, consumers are urged to use them with care and caution.

Cited in a survey report of the Consumer Council were some of the accidents that these products could pose to the consumers and the elderly in particular:

  • An elderly woman was scalded by a chemical warm pad hurting the sole of her foot.
  • An elderly man opened a pack of chemical warm pad and ingested the chemical powder inside.
  • A woman was seriously scalded and injured when an electro-thermal bag burst splashing out the hot fluid inside.
  • A user got scalded by using a recalled model of a microwave pre-heat warm pad.

The survey found various types and models of warm pads in the market i.e. water pre-treat warm pads, microwave pre-heat pads, chemical pads, etc. Most people use these pads to get warm; some may use to relieve pain.

Consumers may tend to ignore the potential risk of such warm pads (some are the size of a palm), believing that the pad could only work for a few hours with limited release of heat energy.

Since pre-heat time instructed by most microwavable warm pads are based on 500W to 600W microwave oven, pre-heat time should be adjusted if your oven is more powerful (latest models could range from 700W to 1,000W). 

To play safe, consumers may segment the heating time and observe if there is any unusual changes. Suppliers are urged also to revise the out-dated pre-heat instruction and make the necessary adjustment.

Users are advised to carefully follow the pre-heating instructions as any over-heating or heating in an improper way may break the pad and cause scald injury.

Chemical warm pads, on the other hand, require no pre-heating and are more convenient especially for use outdoors. The one drawback is it is non-reversible and could only be used once.

In the survey, it was found that one chemical warm pad claimed to reach a high temperature of 87℃; some claimed to give an average temperature of 50℃, and some to maintain 50℃ for 20 hours.

But prolonged direct contact of warm pads with the skin is undesirable. In fact, material with temperature (43℃) higher than the body (37℃), in close contact with the skin on the same area for an extended period (over 8 hours), may cause third degree scald.

The Consumer Council reiterated its warning to stop the use of the electro-thermal bags as most of them were found to be unsafe posing risk of bursting and electric shock.

For safety, choose only the traditional hot-water bottles, pre-heat or pre-treat warm pads and chemical warm pads, and always inspect them for any leakage before use.

For people who are less sensitive to heat and pain - children, elderly, diabetic, people with spinal cord diseases and on medication (i.e. taking analgesic or sleeping pills), the disabled, etc. - are advised not to use warm pads by themselves without the attention of others.

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