“I need to see a doctor, now!” I was screaming at the poor receptionist, whilst lifting my top and pointing at my belly. “I just had surgery last week, and look what has happened. Something is wrong, I need to see a doctor!” My shouting had caught the attention of everybody in the waiting room. I could feel people staring at me and tears were burning in my eyes. “Please..!” I tried one last time. The receptionist sighed and confirmed a doctor could see me, if I could wait another 30 minutes. Grateful for this opportunity, I sat down.
Totally embarrassed, I walked out of my GP’s office 35 minutes later. When I showed my doctor the red, blotchy patches on my belly, he dismissed it straight away. “Have you been using a hot water bottle?” Erm, yes I had. Little did I know that a hot water bottle could cause these massive patches. It was obvious my GP thought I had wasted his time.
This happened about 5 years ago, when I was just diagnosed with endometriosis, fresh out of surgery and obviously totally clueless about everything to do with this chronic illness. Thankfully, the red, blotchy patches disappeared within a few days, but I was lucky that time. Because I didn’t know that extensive long-term exposure to the heat from a hot water bottle can cause serious burns to the skin, I am now stuck with burn marks on my lower back.
So, here’s my message for you. In case you were not aware, hot water bottles can cause burns if placed directly on the skin, or when it is too hot. These types of burns are serious and happen gradually. Often you will not be able to feel these burns until it is too late. This skin condition is called ‘Erythema ab igne‘.
Here’s what you need to know to make sure you use your hot water bottle sensibly:
Do NOT place a hot water bottle directly onto your skin, make sure you always have it covered with a special cover or a towel at least.
Boiling water should never be poured into a hot water bottle. This is because accidental spills would cause burns, and prolonged use can damage the bottle.
After you made your hot water bottle, wait 10-20 minutes before you snuggle up to it. This gives the temperature a chance to cool down slightly.
Always check the hot water bottle for any cracks or holes by pouring cool water and squeezing the bottle.
Note that if you do experience any serious burns, please seek medical advice immediately.