Safety tips that you need to know before using weighted blankets
Weighted blankets are no more restricted to hospitals and clinics. They have now become a mainstream product that is widely available at all leading supermarkets and online stores. Also known as anxiety blankets, stress blankets, insomnia blankets, heavy blankets, etc. they are very effective for people suffering from insomnia, Parkinson's disease, dementia, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and various other neurological and psychiatric issues. (1) Weighted blankets are generally safe for use unless you are suffering from respiratory or cardiac diseases. Further, they are not recommended for kids below 3 years age and for elderly people who are too weak to remove it by themselves.
Although weighted blankets offer multiple therapeutic benefits, you need to use them very carefully to avoid the risk of choking. There are no specific established guidelines for using the anxiety blankets. However, below we have listed some basic safety guidelines that you must follow. Along with these guidelines, you need to strictly adhere to the manufacturer's instructions as well as the advice of a registered therapist or doctor.
Here are some weighted blankets do's and don'ts:
Kids should use it with caution
A lot of doctors and healthcare physicians recommend that weighted blanket should not be used by kids who are less than 2 years old, but we suggest that you must avoid their use until your kids turn 3. The American Association of Pediatrics is strongly against the use of heavy blanket, vests, cushions, soft toys, and other sleeping products. (2) These products can cause suffocation in infants and toddlers. They are also known to increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related injuries, which is why heavy blankets should be used by kids only when they are able to put them and remove them on their own. Further, weighted blankets are not recommended for children with developmental disorders. Parents must also avoid using the weighted blanket for insomnia while sleeping or sitting with their infants to prevent accidental strangulation.
Older children can safely use them, provided the weight doesn’t exceed the recommended limit.
- You must also seek your pediatrician’s approval before buying a weighted blanket for ADHD.
- The weighted blanket for kids should be custom made and must not be more than 10% of your child’s body weight plus 2 pounds (optional). Weight of the blanket is very crucial, so you must not compromise on this aspect.
- You must closely supervisor your child for the first two weeks and you must note all signs of discomfort and report them to your pediatrician.
- Your child must be trained properly to not cover his mouth, nose, and even the entire face while using the blanket.
- You should give a weighted blanket to your child only when he is able to remove it himself. If he finds it too heavy to remove it easily, do not let him use it.
- Nurses and doctors often use weighted blankets for kids at hospitals to restrain kids from seeking medical treatment. You must not, however, try doing it at home. They are trained professionals and they know when to back out but you may not. You could end up wrapping your child too tightly, which could cause a fatal incident.
- Even if your child and you both use weighted blankets, never allow or encourage your child to use your blanket. The weight could be too much for him to bear and he could get suffocated.
- Lastly, most doctors recommend that your child must be ready to use the blanket. You must not force him/her to use it.
Always follow the recommended weight limit
Buying a blanket that is too light for you will not offer you the deep pressure stimulation that a weighted blanket is supposed to offer. Similarly, a blanket that is too heavy for you could cause discomfort and suffocation. This is the reason why you must strictly to the recommended limit. Heavy blankets can cause potentially fatal accidents, which is why every person should buy a blanket which is specifically suitable for his or her own body weight. Make sure you do not share it with your partner or with your child or anyone else unless both of you have the same body weight. Healthcare professionals and occupational therapies recommend that a weighted blanket for insomnia should weigh approximately 10% of your body weight plus one or two more pounds.
Choose the right filling and fabric
Weighted blankets for kids are made of various fabric and fillings. Many of them look so attractive that you could get tempted and make an instant buying decision. However, you must refrain from buying such glossy inexpensive weighted blankets. Remember that heavy blankets are therapeutic tools and their effectiveness and safety of use matters more than their looks. A lot of people prefer fleece or mink fabric. They are very soft to use but they can cause overheating and discomfort, which is why 100% natural cotton should be your best bet. Cotton is breathable and is rarely known for causing any form of allergic reactions.
For filling, prefer glass beads or poly-pellets. Poly pellets or plastic pellets are designed to feel like tiny pebbles. They are quite comfortable but they do not offer a very smooth and cozy feeling. Glass beads are, however, denser and they offer a soft smooth touch, which is why they are suitable for users of all age groups. The inexpensive weighted blankets often carry rice, corns kennels, wheat, barley, etc. as filling. The manufacturers may market them as ‘organic weighted blankets’, but please be aware that these blankets can cause allergic reactions. The organic fillings are not washable and can get spoilt easily. They may start stinking within a few months and may require frequent dry cleaning. Further, they can harvest bacteria and molds and can cause many skin and respiratory diseases. So, do not fall in for the inexpensive weighted blankets. Do proper research and buy something that you can safely use for years. There are many such products sold on Amazon. One of them is AG weighted blankets for adults. These blankets are made of 100% natural breathable fabrics with glass beads fillings. The fabric and filling both are non-toxic and hypoallergenic. These blankets are available in customized weights. You can check out their Amazon store for more details.
Do not use weighted blankets with other weighted products
The obvious reason why you must not do this is to avoid suffocation and choking. Weighted blankets for kids and adults are designed to be 10% of users body weight plus two pounds. This is the maximum weight that you can bear comfortably. Additional weight can become too intense to bear and can cause choking. Your blood circulation may also get affected, thereby causing various other issues. So, do not use any other heavy product such as another blanket, vest, lap pad, etc. when you are using your anxiety blanket.
Never cover your face and head with the weighted blanket
Sounds obvious but a lot of people still have the habit of covering their face and head while sleeping, especially during winters. Stress blankets, especially the ones made of mink and fleece are very warm and cozy but they are not breathable. If you fall asleep with your face covered, you may not get sufficient oxygen and may suffer from serious health hazards. Moreover, these blankets are heavier than normal blankets. They are difficult to move, so if you start choking or if you suddenly start feeling uncomfortable, you may not be able to move your hand quickly and uncover your face. So, it is strictly advised that you must not cover your face and head with them.
Keep checking your blankets for signs of wear and tear
Good quality weighted blankets such as AG weighted blankets have properly stitched edges and are designed to last for years. However, many inexpensive weighted blankets for adults and kids often have poorly seamed edges and frequent use can open them up causing the pellets or beads to seep out. The glass beads and pellets are otherwise harmless but they are very fine particles and may get into your eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. Once they reach the inside of your body, they can affect you severely, which is why we never recommend cheap products. As soon as you have received your product, check the seams to see if the edges are sealed properly. Also, keep checking the blanket regularly and repair or replace it when the signs of wear and tear are prominently seen.
Weighted blankets are not recommended for kids and adults suffering from asthma, sleep apnea, COPD, respiratory problems, cardiac problems, epilepsy, circulatory problems, etc. We strongly recommend that you must consult your healthcare professional to find out if it is suitable for you.
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, weighted blankets for sleeping problems are generally safe for use, but, like any other therapeutic tool, you need to be exercise caution while using them, especially if they are used by kids and elderly people.
References and Citations:
- Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233228002_Exploring_the_Safety_and_Therapeutic_Effects_of_Deep_Pressure_Stimulation_Using_a_Weighted_Blanket.
- How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained. HealthyChildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/A-Parents-Guide-to-Safe-Sleep.aspx.