Burns from hot water bottles on the increase

By Siski Green , Monday 19 November 2012

With everyone trying to save money on heating bills, keeping toasty with old-school methods such as hot water bottles is likely to be become more common. And, according to research from St Andrew’s Anglia Ruskin Research Unit, that is likely lead to an increase in burns
Hot water bottleWith rising energy costs more and more people are turning to old-school methods of keeping warm, such as hot water bottles

It seems that although around half of accidents with hot-water bottles are the result of improper filling or care, at least half were the result of spontaneous bursting.

Looking at the data from 50 patients who had suffered burns as a result of using a hot water bottle, the researchers found that 32% of injuries occurred while filling the bottle while another 18% was due to contact with an overly hot bottle.

However, 50% of injuries were also the result of a bottle bursting. Of those, eight cases were the result of improper care, ie sitting or stepping on the bottle by accident; but in the other 17 incidents there was no clear evidence that the patients had used the bottles incorrectly and the bottle appeared to have burst spontaneously. The most common areas for scalds were the abdomen and lower limbs and in some cases burns were so severe that they required skin grafts.

But, say the researchers, they believe that far more people experience burns but don’t report it. “People try and manage the burns themselves, often because they are embarrassed about what they have done or the area they have burnt, such as their genitalia,” says Quentin Frew, visiting clinical fellow at Anglia Ruskin.

How to protect yourself

Check your bottle. Make sure it has the Kitemark safety standard mark on it. And regularly check it for cracks or signs of wear and tear. If in doubt, throw it out.

Store it carefully. “One common problem is people storing them incorrectly, which can cause the rubber to perish,” says Frew. Keep it flat and away from heat sources. Don’t tighten the lid too much as over time this will cause the seal to wear out.

Use the tap. It’s tempting to put boiling water in so that it gives off a good amount of heat, but if you use hot tap water instead if the bottle does break you’ll suffer less severe burns.

Don't overfill the bottle - fill to three quarters full - to avoid rupture.

For children, the elderly or disabled people use the bottle to warm the bed, then remove it.

Check for a daisy-shaped symbol on the bottle – the figure in the middle indicates which year the bottle was made.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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  • lexi

    Posted: Saturday 12 January 2013

    woooooow, I don't wanna have burns from a hot water bottle.! D:

  • Dot Meah

    Posted: Sunday 25 November 2012

    I had to buy water bottles when my husband was having radiotherepy as his shoulder were very painful, and I managed to buy some with a knitted cover on them. Now I have lost my husband I have passed them to my grandson for the children knowing that they are safe from burning.

  • Jjoy Fitzpatrick

    Posted: Thursday 22 November 2012

    First on filling people should bend the bottle to expand most of the air.
    2nd do not over full using water off the boil with the bottle resting at about 45o and the bottle bent to expel air and let the water run down the side.
    Use a cover, Boots sell a silicone (I think) bottle with a lovely furry cover which keeps the bottle warm for a very long time and does not let the bottle feel so hot to begin with.

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