Trying to stay warm? Experts say to be careful of 'hot water bottle rash'

Anyone else also experiencing ‘frozen fingers’ right now?

Whether you’re heading out to the shops or simply working from home, we’re all feeling the chill at the moment – as the UK is in the midst of yet another cold snap.

And with heating still costing a pretty penny, lots of people are looking for alternative ways to stay warm – whether it’s hot drinks, blankets or hot water bottles.

If you’re opting for the latter, it’s important to be wary of ‘hot water bottle rash’ or ‘toasted skin syndrome’ – a skin condition caused by long-term exposure to heat (AKA, having a hot water bottle lying against your stomach for hours.)

‘Hot water bottle rash, or the official name being Erythema ab igne (EAI), is a skin condition caused by long-term exposure to heat,’ explains Dr Ross Perry, the medical director of Cosmedics skin clinics.

It tends to happen when the individual is exposed for along period of time to a heat source – but the heat is not hot enough to actually burn the skin. 

‘Culprits can include hot water bottles, electric blankets, open fires, heaters and heated pads – which are placed directly onto the skin.’

So what does it look like?

Experts say to look out for a wavy and blotchy, red or brown rash on your skin.

Dr Ross says: ‘A rash can appear (which can be itchy and have a burning sensation); possible hyperpigmentation (which is a red, circular area of discolouration to the area which has been exposed); scaliness and Telangiectasias (small, widened blood vessels on the skin).’

If you want to continue to use these methods to stay warm, is there a way to avoid it?

Dr Ross says there are a few things you can do.

He explains: ‘If you’re using heating pads or heated blankets, it’s best to have clothing barrier between the heat source and the skin.

‘Also, keep heat levels moderate not allowing them to get too hot – this includes hot water bottles, which should not be placed directly on to the skin and should never be boiling.’

If you do think you’ve ‘hot water bottle rash’ there are a few things you can do.

‘There are not really any specific treatments for Erythema ab igne – but first of all it’s important to remove the heat source immediately to prevent any further irritation,’ adds Dr Ross.

‘In most cases the discolouration of the skin will fade alongside any irritation.

‘If symptoms continue do visit your GP who will likely prescribe topical medications, such as retinoids, which can help.’

How to be safe using a hot water bottle:

  • 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.
  • Check the expiry as it’s recommended that you replace hot water bottles every two years. You can check this using the daisy wheel date on the bottle.

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