Mum's dire warning about out-of-date hot water bottles

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT. A four-year-old Queensland boy was left with third degree burns, after an out-of-date hot water bottle burst open in his lap, narrowly missing his genitals.

The little boy’s mother Harmony Arrowsmith, from the Sunshine Coast, is now pointing to the incident to urge others to check the expiry dates on their hot water bottles this winter.

“I filled it up with water from the kettle. It wasn’t boiling, it had been sitting for probably about 10 to 15 minutes before I actually put it into the hot water bottle and I put the lid on tight, as I normally do,” Ms Arrowsmith told Yahoo7.

The out-of-date hot water bottle split at the seams on Sunday morning. Source: Harmony Arrowsmith

“I gave it to him and as soon as I put it on his lap, he started crying so I picked it up immediately and I saw water on his pants and on the couch,” she said.

The hot water bottle had burst open at the bottom seam, leaking hot water over the little boy.

“I stood him and I took his pants off and I saw the skin sort of falling off his thigh and so I raced him to the cold shower and had him in there for a few minutes,” Ms Arrowsmith said. 

Ms Arrowsmith and her father quickly drove her son to the local hospital, where he was treated and then sent to Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital (LCCH) in Brisbane.

The four-year-old’s right upper thigh was burned when an out-of-date hot water bottle split open. Source: Harmony Arrowsmith

Her son suffered burns to his right upper thigh and groin area. Luckily, the the hot water narrowly missed his genitals. The family now has to travel to the hospital every few days for further burns treatment. Doctors stated that his injuries were between second and third degree burns.

“I’ve used hot water bottles for my whole life and for my son’s whole life aswell, I’ve never had issues with it before,” Ms Arrowsmith said.

“It’s never something that crossed my mind that they could disintegrate or have an expiration date,” she said.

When she checked the hot water bottle after the incident, Ms Arrowsmith realised that the neck of the bottle said ‘2015’, but didn’t specify whether it was the manufacturing or expiry date.

“I’m never going to use them again, that kind of ruined that for me,” she said.

The boy’s burns were covered in glad wrap at the local hospital. Source: Harmony Arrowsmith

Siobhan Connolly, Chair of the Prevention Committee at the Australian and New Zealand Burn Association said that NSW hospital burn units have seen four to six hot water bottle victims in the past few weeks.

She says that hot water bottles technically do not have expiry dates, but advises that they should be replaced annually.

“We recommend people don’t use it past about twelve months,” Ms Connolly said.

“Check that water bottle before you use it. Look at the seams, feel the rubber itself, is it still pliable or is it quite brittle and cracked?” Ms Connolly said.

“If you have any concerns, chuck it out,” Ms Connolly said.

The ANZBA has a set of safety guidelines for hot water bottle usage. Source: ANZBA

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission [ACCC], in Australia around 200 people a year are admitted to hospital with serious burns related to hot water bottles.

A spokesperson from the ACCC said that hot water bottles have expiry dates printed on them in a ‘daisy wheel’ pattern.

“All hot water bottles are marked with a ‘daisy wheel’ date, which indicates when the bottle was made,” the spokesperson said.

“Each of the 12 segments in the daisy wheel represents a month of the year, starting with January at the top, progressing clockwise until the 12th segment, which represents December.”

“The last segment in a clockwise direction with dots indicates the month the bottle was made. Each dot in the last segment with dots in it represents the week of the month the bottle was made. For example, three dots equals the third week,” the spokesperson said.

The ACCC recommends checking expiry dates and replacing hot water bottles every twelve months.