Wheatfilled heat packs The good and the bad
We’ve all seen, if not tried, therapeutic wheat-bags for warmth or to relieve pain. These are a quick and convenient product and very effective if used properly.
Image courtesy of designerwheatbags.com.au
Most wheat-packs – at least the good ones – are made from corduroy or similar heat-retaining materials, and are filled with cleaned wheat. Some also contain herbs or essential oils for a more pleasant scent. They can be purchased commercially, from craft stalls or you can make them easily yourself.
When used correctly, wheat packs provide a gentle warmth that can last for several hours and can be used over and over again.
However, there are precautions that need to be taken when using these products. We know that commercially produced ones are made to a certain standard of quality and come with clear instructions, but many others are not and there have been recorded incidents of wheat bags catching fire when over-heated and of people (including children) being seriously burned.
If you are going to purchase a hand-made one there are some things you need to look for. Firstly they should be made of a suitable material. They should be hard-wearing and clean with strong stitching (preferably double-stitched).
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Ask the seller what kind of wheat they use. It should be cleaned or double-cleaned. Uncleaned wheat can contain husks and dust which are not only prickly but can contribute to the bags combustibility and some even contains bugs and mouse droppings. If you are making your own wheat bag, be careful not to over-fill it with wheat. Half to two-thirds full is more than enough.
The best way to avoid fire danger is to heat your wheat-bag gradually at first. Depending on the size of your wheat bag and the wattage of your microwave, you may need to adjust the recommended times. Try a couple of minutes to start with, and then if you feel it needs longer, set it at one minute intervals. It’s important to take the bag out occasionally and shake it to evenly distribute the warmth and avoid any ‘hot spots.’ This is another reason not to overfill your bag as the wheat needs to be able to move freely inside.
With prolonged use, the wheat in your wheat bag will gradually dry out. In this case it is recommended that a damp (not wet) paper towel be placed in the microwave with it to retain some moisture.
Make sure your microwave turntable is clean, as food particles can adhere to the wheat bag and ‘cook ’ it, burning the fabric. Check regularly for worn spots, tears or loose stitching. It’s an uncomfortable feeling to wake up in the middle of the night to a bed full of wheat grains.
Image courtesy of wheatbagslove.com.au
If you are giving a wheat bag to a child, a pet, an elderly or ill person or a person with limited abilities, please check the temperature of the bag against your own skin for a minute or two first. Prolonged application can become very hot in a short amount of time and can burn.
Children’s bags should be diligently checked for holes or wear to avoid swallowing or inhaling the small seeds.
If you follow the directions carefully and check your wheat bags regularly, they should provide you with warmth and pain relief for many months. The good thing is that they are inexpensive and easy to replace before they become a hazard.
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