Two women were taken to hospital in Adelaide on Sunday night after a therapeutic wheat bag caught alight on bedding, prompting fresh warnings over the personal warmers.
The South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service responded to the emergency call for a house fire in the suburb of Smithfield, in the north of Adelaide, at 10:50pm on Sunday. They estimate the fire caused $1000 worth of damage to the property. One woman is being treated for smoke inhalation, while the other is being treated for smoke inhalation and minor burns.
Wheat bags are a common home treatment for muscle aches and injuries. However, fire authorities say they should never be used in bed.
"If they are overheated they can smoulder, and if you put them in bedding then unfortunately they can cause a fire," SA Metropolitan Fire Service spokesperson Nicole Ely told The Huffington Post Australia.
A coronial inquiry into the death of a Sydney woman in 2011 found that there was little regulation around wheat bags and that there needed to be better education about the dangers they pose, especially for young people and the elderly.
The inquiry prompted Standards Australia to release a voluntary standard for wheat bags. While manufacturers aren't required by law to follow these guidelines, Australians can have more confidence in their product if the label says it complies with the standard.
To avoid burns and fires, SA Metropolitan Fire Service encourage people to follow these steps when using wheat bags:
- Do not overheat wheat bags. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- Use wheat bags only as a heat pack for direct application to the body. Do not use them as bed warmers.
- Do not use wheat bags in bed to avoid the danger of falling asleep whilst they are in use.
- Use wheat bags with extreme caution with the elderly.
- Do NOT use wheat bags with babies or young children.
- Do not reheat until the wheat bag has completely cooled. Reheating before the bag has cooled may be just as dangerous as overheating.
- Watch for these signs of over-use: an over-cooked odour; a smell of burning; or, in extreme cases, smoking and/or charring. Discard the wheat bag after cooling if you observe any of these signs.
- Do not put wheat bags into storage until they are cold. Leave them to cool on a non-combustible surface such as a kitchen sink
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