A heating pad is a piece of equipment which is designed to produce radiant heat. Heating pads are often used in medicine for things like keeping newborn infants warm or increasing the flow of blood to a damaged area of the body. People also like to use heating pads for pain management, or simply to increase their comfort in cold weather. A wide variety of heating pads can be found on the market, from specialized pads with temperature sensors and computerized timing systems to basic heating pads which simply plug in and turn on.
In medicine, heating pads have a wide range of uses. During surgery on both humans and animals, for example, a heating pad may be used to compensate for the cool temperatures which prevail in operating rooms. Heating pads also increase perfusion, the healthy circulation of blood to the extremities of the body. Veterinarians may use heating pads for the comfort of their clients while they rest or recover in holding cages, and a heating pad can also be used in an incubator for young humans or animals to provide gentle heat.
At home, people use heating pads to warm beds in the winter, and more high powered versions may be used to help keep foods warm on the table. Some companies make heating pads which are specifically designed to slip over mattresses for the purpose of warming beds in the winter, and such pads are also used by massage therapists to make their massage tables more comfortable. Some individuals also use heating pads for at home pain management, often in a form which can be worn around the house.
An electrical heating pad has elements which heat up when the pad is plugged in and turned on. The heat may be adjustable with a thermostat, or fixed. Many companies also make chemical heating pads which rely on a chemical reaction to heat; these are often included in first aid kits for quick heat in emergency situations. People can also purchase or make their own reusable heating pads intended for warming in microwaves and ovens. These heating pads are made from insulating material filled with something like sand, grain, or beans which will hold heat.
Whatever a heating pad is being used for, the use should be closely monitored, since heating pads can cause burns or fires. If you are using a heating pad at home for pain management and you have not consulted a doctor, you may want to seek medical attention if the pain persists or becomes worse. Never leave an electric heating pad plugged in unattended, and always test a heating pad on the inside of your wrist before applying it; this sensitive skin will register dangerously high temperatures which could cause a burn.