While there are concerns about the safety of electric blankets, if you have a new electric blanket, there’s only a minimal risk of fires or burns.

The same can’t be said for old, damaged, or improperly used electric blankets, which are responsible for the majority of incidents of electric blankets causing fires and burning people.

If you like sleeping with an electric blanket on your bed and don’t know how old your electric blanket is, consider getting a new one because:

  • New electric blankets include safety features, such as a rheostat control, that reduce the risk of fire and burns.
  • According to Columbia University, 99 percent of all electric blanket fires are caused by those that are 10 years old or older.
  • Older blankets may not have internal temperature controls to turn them off before they get too hot.

Keep reading to learn more about the potential dangers of electric blankets and how to avoid them.

There are steps you can take to reduce risks from a potentially dangerous heated blanket, including:

  • Look for a tag indicating that the blanket has been tested and approved by a nationally recognized independent testing agency, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Don’t buy a secondhand electric blanket.
  • Avoid blankets that show signs of excessive wear, such as tears, discolorations, scorch marks, frayed electrical cord, or damaged temperature control.
  • Don’t use an electric blanket that has wires and attachments that don’t fit tightly and properly.
  • Hold the blanket up to the light. If you see embedded heating wires that are damaged or displaced, don’t use the blanket.

Even though modern heating blankets are considered generally safe, they should be used correctly. Suggestions for proper use include:

  • When you’re not using your blanket, turn it off.
  • Don’t use more than one electric blanket at a time.
  • Don’t use an electric blanket and a heating pad at the same time.
  • To avoid accidental switching on, don’t plug your blanket into an electrical outlet that’s controlled by a light switch.
  • Don’t wash an electric blanket.
  • Don’t dry-clean an electric blanket.
  • If your blanket doesn’t have a timer, turn it off before you go to sleep.
  • Don’t lie or sit on top of an electric blanket.
  • Don’t tuck the edges of an electric blanket under the mattress.
  • Don’t pile pillows, blankets, books, toys, or other items on top of an electric blanket.
  • Avoid using both a hot water bottle and an electric blanket at the same time.
  • Don’t plug in or switch on a wet electric blanket.
  • Don’t use an electric blanket with an adjustable, hospital-style bed or a waterbed.
  • When storing an electric blanket, gently roll it or hang it up. If you must fold it, fold with as few creases as possible.
  • Don’t turn on, or leave on, an electric blanket that’s been folded or balled up.

If you have any concerns about an electric blanket, unplug it. It can still be used as a regular blanket.

For years, the correlation between electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) and cancer have been debated.

According to the National Cancer Institute, electric blankets are a source for extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields (ELF-EMFs), as are power lines, electrical wiring, and electrical appliances such as hair dryers and shavers.

The National Cancer Institute indicates that “no mechanism by which ELF-EMFs or radiofrequency radiation could cause cancer has been identified.”

Berkeley Wellness also indicates that there’s “no convincing evidence that typical exposures to EMFs pose any risk” of causing cancer.

Developing fetuses can be sensitive to environmental conditions. To avoid any possible risk of complications, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that pregnant women discontinue heating blanket use while pregnant.

Along with electric blankets, pregnant women avoid overheating in saunas and hot tubs.

If you have diabetes, your doctor may discourage your use of electric blankets and heating pads.

A complication of diabetes for some people is neuropathy (nerve damage). This may affect your ability to feel if an electric blanket or heating pad is inappropriately hot.

If you don’t dial down or remove an electric blanket or heating pad that’s too hot, it could result in overheating and even burns.

According to the Mayo Clinic, if you have diabetes and want to use an electric blanket, consider using it to warm up your bed before bedtime and then turn off the blanket or remove it before getting into the bed.

If you have poor blood circulation, you could be insensitive to heat.

Consult with your doctor before using an electric blanket or heating pad for the same reasons mentioned above for people with diabetes and neuropathy.

New electric blankets are a minimal safety risk, but old, damaged, or improperly used electric blankets can pose a risk for fire or burns.

Electric blankets can be a factor in overheating for pregnant women, and many health organizations recommend discontinuing use during pregnancy.

Although there have been many studies regarding the relationship between the extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields (ELF-EMFs) generated by electric blankets and cancer, no proof of a cause and effect has been found.