It is hard to beat the feeling of climbing into a bed that is already warm, especially in the winter when it's cold out. What you may not know, however, is that the heat from electric blankets can cause dry skin, or make a dry, winter-damaged skin condition worse.
The Electric Blanket Institute estimates that 4 1/2 million electric blankets, mattresses and throws are sold every year in the United States 1. Their uses go beyond just warming the bed. Perhaps you use an electric blanket to save energy and reduce heating bills. Some people use an electric blanket for therapeutic purposes. Electric blankets may be effective in managing arthritis and fibromyalgia pain, muscle aches and tension and allergies and sinus problems. You may find that you sleep better in a cool room while remaining warm in bed. Many electric blankets have dual controls that allow two people to enjoy two different comfort settings.
Advancements in technology have made modern electric blankets safer and more efficient. The general idea is that an electric current passes through a resistive wire to generate heat. A long length of resistive wire is fastened throughout the blanket. Today's electric blankets are designed with a low wattage, or level of heat, so you can use them all night long with little risk of your skin burning or fire occurring.
Effect on Skin
While the risk of burning your skin is relatively low with modern electric blankets, they can cause dry skin or make already existing dry skin worse. Using an electric blanket on already winter-damaged skin can be a bad combination. During the winter, the temperature and humidity drop. Artificial heat dries out the air even more. Electric blankets further withdraw moisture from a large surface area of your body, often resulting in dry, itchy, cracked and irritated skin.
Depending on the severity of your dry skin, you may have to consider discontinuing the use of your electric blanket. Consider wearing warmer pajamas and adding extra blankets at night. If your dry skin condition is mild, turn on your electric blanket before you go to sleep to warm up your bed, but turn it off for the night.
In addition to limiting or discontinuing the use of your electric blanket, there are other tips for preventing or improving dry skin. Avoid taking hot showers and using excessive soap, as this makes dry skin worse. Moisturize your skin with lotion while your skin is slightly damp after a bath or shower. Drink plenty of water to hydrate your body from the inside out. Know when to seek medical help. If your skin is severely cracked, irritated or bleeding, see a doctor. Anytime your skin integrity is impaired, there is a risk of infection.
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