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Side Effects of Electric Blankets (And Who Shouldn’t Use Them)

Electric blankets grew in popularity from the moment they were introduced to the market. They help keep you warm during the winter months when nights can get frigidly cold. However, the fame didn’t last long with several side effects of electric blankets that pretty much made it a dealbreaker.

Now, decades later we’ll tell the truth about the electric blankets and potential risks of using them.

Risks of Using Electric Blankets

Catching Fire

Electric Blankets catch fire

Terry Cralle, RN

Electric blankets are an electric appliance which just like any other can be the leading cause of sparking a fire at home.

There is a history of events where electric blankets started the fire that damaged people’s property and even compromised lives. Back in 2010, a fire in Walnut Creek in California started from a faulty electric blanket, claiming one life.

The first side effects of electric blanket appeared during the mid-’90s and extended towards the late years of the same decade.

The worrisome number of house fires in the UK and the USA reduced the market presence of these blankets. People who used them became wary and reduced the use of these products.


A study from 2006 found that people died due to overheating or even certain degree burns which were a result of using a damaged electric blanket.

Even other publications urged people to reduce the use of electric blankets as they can cause overheating and burns can be especially fatal towards people who suffer from diabetes.

Some people may not even notice how hot the blanket is because they suffer from certain nerve damage, and thus may have lost the perception to recognize the blanket got hot before it’s too late.



Terry Cralle, RN

The use of an electric blanket could have a fatal consequence for the pregnancy, by increasing the risk of miscarriage.

Several studies found that using electric blankets in early pregnancy increased the risk of miscarriage. If you’re pregnant and you feel cold, you’re better off using warm water bottles or just turning the blanket on to warm up your bed. If you use it to sleep with it, use it at your own risk.


An electric blanket is an electrical device which means it will also emit the electromagnetic field (EMF) once you turn it on.

A lot of studies hypothesized that EMF exposure leads to damage in our bodies and can eventually cause cancer, especially breast cancer and brain tumor if you’re exposed to it for too long.

electromagnetic field

Terry Cralle, RN

However, it’s important to note that electric blankets emit a low-level electromagnetic field, which is believed to not be as dangerous or potentially lethal to people.

The American Cancer Society reported that while it’s impossible to confirm the link, it’s also hard to rule it out while hinting that electromagnetic radiation could cause leukemia in childhood.

If you believe exposure to the low-level magnetic field could expose you to the malicious disease, you should find ways to reduce your exposure to the EMF or consider replacing your electric blanket in entirety.

Old Electric Blankets Vs. New Ones

It’s important to note that electric blankets vastly changed compared to the last years. Old electric blankets come with a lot of risks, but the same can’t be said for newer designs, which are a result of cutting-edge technology.

That said, the new models have minimal risks of causing burns on your body or sparking a fire.

First and foremost, the vast majority of fire outbreaks are caused by old, damaged, and weary electric blankets.

Keep in mind that wires, and other components begin to decay over the years, meaning that electric blankets can’t and won’t last forever.

If you don’t use your electric blanket properly, or store it how it should be stored, chances are that there is a risk of the incident at your home, and you certainly don’t want that.

If you’re sleeping with an electric blanket that you don’t know how old it is, and it looks kind of weary, perhaps it’s the time to look for a new model. Here’s why new models are better than the old ones.

  • New models are equipped with temperature controls as well as safety controls and other features. One of the most prominent safety-inducing features is rheostat which can decrease the risk of fires and burns induced by old blankets.
  • If you own an electric blanket for many years, the probability of it being worn off and damaged is high. A research conducted by Columbia University found that 99% of all-electric blanket-induced fires and life-threatening burns were caused by models that were in use for at least ten years.
  • New models come with internal temperature controls that simplify their use. Consumers can now turn the heating off before the blanket gets too hot without plugging it out.

Maintenance of new electric blankets is also relatively easier, because they come with safety switches which can automatically turn off the device when it’s too hot and you forgot to unplug it.

The older models were more prone to fires because the electric blanket was left plugged for a long time even when the product wasn’t in use and that shortened its lifespan. The wires can overheat while inadequate storage like folding, crumpling, and smushing the blanket can lead to wires getting bent and damaged.

Suggest Reading: What Is the Perfect Temperature for Sleep?

Who Shouldn’t Use Electric Blanket?

Even though we unveiled that the electric blankets of the newer generation are genuinely safer for people who take proper care of them, it’s important to note that some groups are still at risk of using them. In case you’re one of the following, you should avoid using the electric blankets.

You’re Pregnant

As mentioned above, the prolonged use of an electric blanket can cause miscarriage during early pregnancy. Electric blankets aren’t advised for pregnant women as they’d rise your internal body temperatures too.

Rising temperature to 101 degrees Fahrenheit and higher could result in miscarriage as huge temperature fluctuations can harm the fetus and hinder their development and health.

As mentioned above, the best safety measure would be using the electric blanket to warm up your bed. Simply leave it on the bed from 30 minutes to an hour so you can soothe yourself in a warm ambient during cold winter months.

Also, don’t forget to pull the plug out before laying down!


Diabetic people can have a lot of health complications that are associated with the disease they’re suffering from.

Diabetic people often have the joined condition of diabetic neuropathy which causes the loss of sensation in a certain area affected by diabetes, which could leave you exposed to heat for too long before you know it’s gotten too hot.

Similarly, like pregnant women, try to leave the blanket for 30 minutes to warm up the surface.

Pets and Small Children

Even though newer electric blankets come with safety measures and protection, those who don’t have control over temperatures and power supply of the blanket shouldn’t use it.

That includes infants, toddlers under 3, and pets. They aren’t able to adjust the temperature on their own and toddlers could mistakenly make it even hotter.

Additionally, they can’t unplug it, causing even more risk if you leave them alone with the blanket on the bed.

This risk especially applies to dogs, which aren’t able to release sweat unless on feet. Your pet could potentially overheat and get sick from the inability to release the heat absorbed from the blanket.

Looking for some alternatives? Maybe you can check Bedjet V3 Review: Best Bed Climate Control Comfort System?

How to Use Electric Blanket Properly (13 Tips)

Despite certain risks and side effects of electric blankets, there are still ways to use it properly. Here’s how.

  • Turn it off or unplug it when not in use.
  • Don’t use multiple electric blankets together.
  • Don’t combine electric blankets with heating pads.
  • Unless stated in the declaration, electric blankets shouldn’t be washed in the machine or cleaned with water.
  • If you have a toddler who likes to tinker around, don’t leave the blanket in the plug, as there’s a possibility they may turn it on. Also, avoid plugging it in the sockets with the light switch as control.
  • Avoid dry-cleaning electric blanket unless specified otherwise.
  • Turn it off before you go to sleep unless your blanket has a timer.
  • Don’t pile the other blankets, pillows, toys, and other items that can catch fire.
  • Don’t attach edges under your mattress.
  • If it’s gotten wet, don’t plug it into the power socket.
  • Don’t use hot water bottles in combination with an electric blanket.
  • Don’t fold or bend the electric blanket. Store it hung or gently rolled.
  • Don’t leave it on for extended amounts of time unattended, especially if it’s been balled up or folded before.

Lastly, if you’re shopping for an electric blanket or getting it as a gift, ensure that it’s not too old and worn off to use. Additionally, ensure that it has been tested and approved by the testing agency like Underwriters Laboratories (UL) as well as other certifications.

Also, if you are shopping for it, don’t buy the already used blanket, no matter how much in a good shape it is. Also, if the wires and other attachments look loose and not bound properly, likely, it won’t function well.

Also Read: Can You Use An Electric Blanket With A Mattress Topper?

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Sunday 25th of December 2022

Every time I use a heating pad or electric blanket I develop heart palpitations, weird zapping/buzzing 'jolts' in my head and other strange sensations in body and head. Also become very shaky. I'd jerk awake repeatedly because of this. Worried to speak of it that people would think I'm nuts BUT then read about 'dirty electricity' and despite it being illegal something causes these multiple issues. After Lyme disease I've become allergic to elastic and other soft plastics & synthetic materials. Elastic bands in underpants cause huge water blisters- Even the costly Cottonique allergy underwear causes same big, painful, blisters. Searched high & low for cold weather sleeping bags made from all cotton. Finally found some today being sold by a hardware store in Minnesota. Got the bags that keep you warm to -25F. Name of store is Sheels. Nothing's worse than freezing while trying to sleep except for the effects of the electric blankets/pads. Thousands of households have lost power here in Pa now that we're having below 0 temps. These heavy-duty sleeping bags are the answer & could possibly save our lives. So grateful to have found a store that sells the cotton canvas(outside)cotton flannel(inside) & thick cotton fill. Wanted to share this in case it could help someone else stay warm and safe. Merry Christmas everyone!

Hugh Edwards

Monday 19th of December 2022

I suffer from skin dermatitis and so am wondering if a heated underblanket would be suitable for me?


Tuesday 13th of December 2022

I used heating blankets for years. I don’t have issues with the blankets we replace them right away if if doesn’t seem to work correctly. However, I’m beginning to wonder if using the blanket has spoiled my body to were it’s hard for me to be warm without it. I run cold at work.

Lucia Alexander

Saturday 11th of June 2022

Hi, first diagnosed with severe degenerative osteoarthritis aged 33 well over 40 years ago, on no meds due to inflamed duodenal, so sleeping at times was impossible due to joint pain. Electric blanket has me out cold in 10 minutes, but problem is quite often I would wake up in the morning with the electric blanket still on. The dehydration was so intense that my inner ears were all scabby and flaky. My hairdresser thought I was being lax in hygiene and no longer offered me appointments and I certainly was unaware as I live alone that I had scabby ears. Now electric blanket is on for 1 hr prior to getting into bed, then turned off immediately. The heat stays with me till I fall asleep and not during the entire night. Ears are fine.

Keith Noud

Tuesday 7th of June 2022

I have had 2 operations (open heart surgery) and I am "wired for sound" ..I have a pacemaker inserted . Could the electrics of an electric blanket interfere with the workings of my pacemaker given that the pacemaker has batteries which last approx.10 years . I also suffer from periferal neuropathy in my lower legs and my hands . I am feeling the winters and would like to obtain an electric blanket .So..Can I ? over to you.