Are Hand Warmers Safe to Use?
Winter is here! And while insulated gloves and fuzzy mittens are a must-have winter accessory, especially for those who live in tundra-like climates, sometimes you need something with a little more oomph to keep your hands and fingers warm. Many individuals rely on hand warmers to keep their fingers toasty. From snowboarders on frosty slopes to office workers in a cold environment, the comforting warmth from these little devices is a blessing.
How do hand warmers work?
There are several types of hand warmers that work in different ways. The ones you might be most familiar with are air-activated. These warming packets contain cellulose, iron, activated carbon, vermiculite, and salt that produce heat from an exothermic reaction. Unfortunately, the reaction ceases within one or two hours. Other hand warmers use battery power, charcoal, or other mixes of chemicals to create a temporary warming reaction.
Types of hand warmers:
Disposable hand warmers: This type is good for those who need long-term heat. The air-activated packets take about 15 to 20 minutes to fully activate, but they’ll last for up to 10 hours. They’re also small enough to fit in gloves or boots to help further promote blood flow to your fingers and toes.
Electric/rechargeable hand warmers: These can reach temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with the industry standard being around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Electric hand warmers are powered by a lithium-ion battery. Rechargeable electric hand warmers are perfect for those expecting prolonged periods out in the cold, like camping trips or hunting expeditions. It’s essential to select a device with dependable battery life, preferably one offering dual-sided heat and adjustable temperature controls for versatility. This type is also good for those with iron-deficiency anemia, peripheral cyanosis or anyone else with a condition that causes cold hands.
Catalytic hand warmers: These work through a chemical reaction that burns chemicals at a lower temperature to produce heat without a flame. The good news is you can get up to 12 hours of heat with a catalytic hand warmer, but the bad news is there’s no way to stop it. The heat will only stop once all the fuel is burned.
Safety tips for using hand warmers:
Read the instructions: Like any product, it's crucial to read and follow the instructions carefully. Different brands might have varied guidelines on how to activate and use the warmers.
Avoid direct skin contact for extended periods: While hand warmers are designed to be safe, prolonged contact with the skin can cause burns or rashes. It's recommended to use a thin layer of cloth or material between the warmer and your skin.
Monitor temperature: If you feel that the hand warmer is getting too hot, remove it immediately. Overheating can be a sign of a malfunction.
Dispose properly: Once used, dispose of hand warmers appropriately. They should not be punctured or thrown into open flames.
Ultimately, hand warmers are a safe supplemental tool for comfort and can prevent frostbite in extremely cold conditions. However, they should be part of a broader strategy to stay warm, including proper clothing and staying active to maintain body heat.