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Winter warning - correct and safe use of heat packs

16 May 2013

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is reminding consumers of potential health risks associated with using wheat or grain-filled heat packs.

Heat packs - also commonly known as wheat bags, wheat packs and heat bags, among other names - are typically fabric bags filled with wheat or some other grain, which are heated in a microwave and used to warm parts of the body.

If a heat pack's manufacturer makes therapeutic claims about their device (for example, 'relieves muscle aches and pains'), it must be listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). Such heat packs are classified as low-risk (Class 1) medical devices.

The TGA has received adverse event reports involving heat packs, including personal injury. Burns can result from heat packs:

  • being heated and placed on or in bedding
  • being heated in microwaves for longer than the time specified by the manufacturer
  • being reheated before being allowed to cool properly
  • ageing, causing fillings to dry out and become combustible.

Tips for safe use of heat packs

The TGA advises consumers to:

  • only buy heat packs that have clear directions for use and carefully follow those instructions, especially when heating the pack
  • avoid buying packs with flammable casing or covers (wool and cotton-covered packs are recommended as they are non-combustible)
  • not use heat packs in situations where the heat is confined, for example inside or on bedding.

The TGA is working with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to promote the safe use of heat packs. Further information is available at the ACCC's Product Safety Australia website.