Heat can help relieve your child’s pain. It can also help loosen stiff joints and relax your child. St. Jude staff use heat treatment in the hospital, and you can also use it at home.
It is very important to give heat treatment safely, or you can burn your child. This handout tells you the basic information about heat treatment. It includes how St. Jude staff use heat in the hospital and how to give heat treatment at home.
Important safety note
If your child wears a medication patch, they should not have heat treatment. The heat can make the patch release too much medication into your child’s bloodstream. This could cause a drug overdose, which is very dangerous.
Heat treatment in the hospital
St. Jude nurses can give heat treatment 2 different ways when your child is in the hospital. Your child might receive:
- A disposable instant heat pack – Used on small areas for a short time.
- A disposable pad filled with warm water – Used for sickle cell crisis. A pump keeps the water warm.
Do not use an electric home heating pad or microwave gel pad in the hospital. Please talk to your nurse if you have questions.
Checking your child before heat treatment
The nurse must check your child before giving a heat treatment. The nurse will check for the following things.
- Broken skin – Any open areas or wounds.
- Swelling and signs of infection.
- Ability to say the area is too hot, or get away from the heat if it becomes uncomfortable.
No heat treatment in these areas
Your child should not have heat treatment in certain areas. These include:
- The face,
- The area around the genitals, and
- Any area with broken skin, poor blood flow, swelling or numbness.
How your child’s nurse uses heat treatment
The nurse will cover the heat pack or heat pad with a pillowcase before putting it on your child. This helps prevent burns. Heat should never go directly on the skin, and your child should never lie directly on the heat. Air should always flow around your child’s body and the heat pack or heat pad.
After putting on the heat pack or pad, the nurse will check your child’s skin every 15 minutes. They will take the heat off after 30 minutes. When your child’s skin is cool, the nurse will put the heat back on.
We only give heat treatment while your child is awake. If your child is sleeping or took certain medications, we will not use heat. If heat helps your child’s pain, the nurse can use it again when your child wakes up.
Who should give heat treatment in the hospital?
Only the nurse or another person on your child’s medical team should give heat treatment at St. Jude. Please do not use a heat pack or pad on your child without talking to the nurse first. Doing it by yourself raises the risk of burning your child.
Heat treatment at home
Be very careful when you give heat treatment at home. Your child’s nurse can tell you what type of heat pack is safe.
You can easily burn your child with most common heat treatment items. Avoid using electric heating pads, microwaved wraps, or cloths soaked in hot water. You have a high risk of burning your child. These items do not give controlled heat and easily get too hot.
How to give heat treatment to your child
Please give heat treatment at home the same way as your child’s nurse gave it in the hospital. Do everything on the list below to use heat safely.
- Cover the heat pack or pad with a pillowcase – You may also use a towel.
- Check your child’s skin every 15 minutes.
- Use a controlled low temperature setting.
- Never put heat on open skin or wounds.
- Remove the heat every 30 minutes and let your child’s skin cool.
- Never leave heat on your child’s skin while they are sleeping.
- Never allow your child to lie directly on the heat.
Doing these things will help you relieve your child’s pain while keeping them safe.
If you have questions about using heat treatment, please ask your child’s St. Jude nurse. The nurse or another health care team member can also teach you how to give heat treatment safely.
This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.
St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.
ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).
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