From helping with aches and cramps to warming up a bed, a hot water bottle is a small but mighty essential for many people.

During the cost of living crisis and the price of heating a home becoming daunting to some, people might be turning to them even more, opting to leave the heating off in certain rooms in favour of clinging to their comforting hot water bottle.

But just how safe are hot water bottles? Here’s some potential hazards to be aware of…

Are hot water bottles bad for your health?

Hot water bottles are generally safe, but some medical professionals advise caution around certain aspects.

Speaking on ITV’s Lorraine last month, Dr Amir Khan explained some of the major issues, from skin rashes to possible ruptures and burns.

Dr Khan said on the show, ‘It’s the time of year when you’ll be dusting off your water bottle.’

Explaining that you shouldn’t keep it too close directly against the skin, he said,  ‘You can get a rash with hot water bottles if you apply them to your skin for a long period of time. I see this quite a lot – it’s got a bit of a posh word, it’s called erythema ab igne or the hot water bottle rash.’

Erythema ab igne is a type of skin rash caused by repeated exposure to direct heat or infrared radiation to a person’s skin, often from occupational exposures or the use of heating pads.

While the rash is most often benign, its presence can be an indication of chronic inflammation or, less commonly, systemic illness and should prompt further investigation.

Do hot water bottles have expiration dates?

Another thing people are asking about hot water bottles are whether they have an expiration date, or a time in which they’re no longer safe to use.

There have been examples of them bursting and burning people in the past.

Consumer expert Alice Beer has previously told ITV’s This Morning that hot water bottles are only designed to last up to three years from manufacture.

On the episode, she explained how to figure the expiry date out for a hot water bottle – and it’s… confusing.

She explained: ‘Inside you have got a daisy wheel date. It’s got 12 segments and in the middle of this one you have got a 22. This one was made in 2022.’

‘Then you have 12 segments around the outside and those are the months. You can tell the month it was manufactured from when the dots end. It’s got dots in eight segments so it was made in August.’

If your hot water bottle doesn’t have this, you should try to remember when you purchased it and replace it 2 to 3 years from then.

How to use a hot water bottle safely

To keep on the side of caution, NHS Wales offer some best practice tips to follow when using a hot water bottle.

NHS Wales recommends:

  • Fill the bottle with hot, but not boiling, water
  • Make sure the stopper is securely screwed on
  • Fill the bottle to a maximum of three-quarters full
  • Wrap the bottle in a towel to prevent direct contact
  • Avoid taking the bottle to bed
  • Frequently examine the bottle for signs of wear and tear
  • Expel all air above the water level before sealing carefully, to prevent injury from the escaping hot steam
  • Replace the bottle after two years.

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