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The Inside Scoop on Electric Blanket Safety

When it comes to the annual winter-time struggle of trying to stay comfortable while lowering the thermostat, saving money doesn’t always win out, especially if icicles start to form on the ends of your toes while you’re trying to sleep. Thankfully, electric blankets and electric mattress pads can help bridge the gap and keep you toasty in bed while you turn down your heat for the evening.

If you decide to use an electric blanket or mattress pad to save a few bucks when it’s cold at night, you are probably familiar with some basic safety tips, like not letting the kids jump up and down on one or not sleeping on top of an electric blanket because it can malfunction or get hot enough to burn you. However, it turns out that there’s a lot more to know about electric blanket and mattress pad safety. According to the Electric Blanket Institute, people ask some pretty serious safety questions that you may never have considered. The five most common questions that the Institute hears are:

  1. Can anyone use electric blankets and electric mattress pads?
  2. Is it okay to use an electric blanket during pregnancy?
  3. Is there a concern about EMF’s (electromagnetic frequency waves) emitting by electric bedding?
  4. Can people with pacemakers use electric blankets?
  5. Why can’t people with diabetes use electric blankets?

Before you go out and buy an electric blanket or mattress pad — or before turning one on again tonight — you should make sure that using one is a good idea. Here’s what the Institute has to say about these more advanced safety concerns.

Who Should Avoid Electric Blankets and Electric Mattress Pads?

First off, the Institute is quick to point out that electric blankets and electric mattress pads are electrical appliances and, as with any electric appliance, things can occasionally go wrong. Maybe a heating control stops working properly or a blanket gets bunched up underneath the folds of your bedding, causing a heater wire to break. Situations like these can cause the blanket to overheat and maybe even burn someone. That’s why it’s important to avoid using electric bedding with infants or small children and anyone who is helpless, paralyzed, insensitive to heat or otherwise incapable of understanding and operating the controls.

Can Electric Bedding be Used During Pregnancy?

Medical websites have different opinions about using electric bedding during pregnancy. Some say “sure,” some say “never” and some say “ask your doctor.” The differing opinions are due to concerns over EMFs as well as concerns about overheating the fetus. While you could certainly ask your doctor about electric bedding safety during pregnancy, the Institute says that pregnant women should simply play it safe, err on the side of caution and avoid electric bedding. An alternative is to use an electric blanket to pre-warm your bed sheets and then turn it off prior to slipping under the covers.

What’s the Concern Over EMFs?

Electric bedding produces EMFs, or electromagnetic frequency waves from AC current, which came under scrutiny in the 1980s and 1990s from scientists and others concerned about the electrical fields produced by overhead power lines and some appliances. Some people wondered if the fields contributed to cancer or developmental problems in children. After studying over 500 peer-reviewed papers and spending $65 million on research, the U.S. Government concluded that there was no conclusive evidence to prove that residential EMFs played any role in the development of medical problems. To help mitigate customers’ concerns, Sunbeam, the only major U.S. manufacturer of electric blankets at the time, started making blankets in 1992 with much weaker EMFs.

The Institute says EMFs aren’t a problem, but if you have concerns, you can buy special blankets that convert AC current to DC current or mattress pads that pass heated water through silicone tubes in the pad and avoid electricity in the pad altogether.

Can Electric Bedding be Used with Pacemakers?

The American Heart Association and the Mayo Clinic have said that electric bedding doesn’t damage pacemakers or interfere with their function. However, the Institute recommends that people with pacemakers get the green light from their doctors and pacemaker manufacturers before using electric bedding.

Can Electric Bedding be Used by Diabetics?

The short answer is no. The problem with diabetes is that it causes people who suffer from the disease to be insensitive to heat in some ways, especially if they lose feeling in their legs or arms, and can’t feel the heat from bedding that’s becoming dangerously hot. If you’re diabetic, your best bet is to pre-heat your bed sheets with an electric blanket and then turn off and remove the blanket from the bed before turning in for the evening.


The Electric Blanket Institute, “Are Electric Blankets Safe or Dangerous?”

2/1/2012 1:00:00 AM
in General