How to Apply a Hot Water Bag

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Hot water bags, also called hot water bottles, are rubber bags filled with hot water and used for heat therapy. Use hot water bottles to manage pain, such as headaches or arthritis, or to keep yourself warm on a cold night. Hot water bottles are safer than electric heating pads, which can start fires or cause electric shocks. Unlike electric heating pads, which stay at a constant temperature, hot water bags lose heat gradually. Still, hot water bags may cause injury if you do not use them carefully.

Things You'll Need

  • Hot water bag
  • Hot tap water
  • Towel
  • Thermometer
  • Fill the hot water bag with hot water from the tap. Check the water temperature; it should be between 104 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Squeeze the hot water bag gently to remove air; replace the cap or plug. Make sure the seal is tight enough to prevent water from leaking out.

  • Wrap the hot water bag in a towel to prevent direct skin contact with the heat.

  • Place the hot water bag on the affected area. If it is too painful, wrap the hot water bag in another towel to decrease the temperature, or place the hot water bag directly above or below the affected area.

  • Apply heat to the affected area for 20 to 30 minutes. If the hot water bag gets too cool, refill the water, and check the temperature again.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some pain, such as arthritis, may benefit from alternating cold and heat treatments. When applying cold to the affected area, wrap the ice or ice pack in a towel and avoid direct contact with skin, just as with the hot water bag.
  • To prevent leaks, check the seams of your hot water bag; don't overfill it and make sure that the cap or plug is tightly secured.
  • Never use boiling water in a hot water bag. The water should be warm to hot, but still cool enough to touch.
  • Never lie on a hot water bag. The pressure cause the bag to burst or leak, causing burns.
  • If you have diabetes or any other condition that causes decreased sensitivity, you may accidentally burn yourself. Talk to your doctor before using a hot water bag or any other form of heat therapy.

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