The Meager Beginnings of the Hydrocollator and Hot Packs
In 1947, the Chattanooga Pharmaceutical Company developed a patent on a "colloid-filled jean-cloth bag" which could be soaked in hot water for the purpose of being used as a hot-pack. They also developed a heater that could be used to thermostatically control the temperature of water and maintain the packs at a constant temperature.
This proved to be a very effective method for ready access to moist heat therapy in almost any clinical setting. Hydrocollators have since become as ubiquitous in a clinic or athletic training room as a fax machine is a business office.
Problems often Associated with Hydrocollators
As with any piece of equipment, your Hydrocollators will require some maintenance over the course of it's lifespan. These units come initially with a 1 year warranty but typically can last 8-10 years if maintained well.
Your Hydrocollators are designed to maintain a constant temperature between 160° F - 165° F (71° C - 74° C). At 160° F, your Hydrocollator's immersion is hot enough to kill any bacteria or living organisms making that an ideal temperature to maintain your hot packs.
If you're having trouble with your hot packs smelling foul it's generally because your Hydrocollator is not properly getting up to temperature. Just like football or hockey gear, if left untreated, organisms can grow and give off some fairly distinctive odors. One athletic trainer even described the smell like that of "cat urine" so it's definitely a situation you want to avoid.
Many problems can be resolved with a good cleaning but occasionally you may find that you have to replace the heating element or thermostat.
Some Solutions to Common Hydrocollator Problems:
|Problem||Possible Cause||Possible Solution|
|Unit plugged in, Water does not get hot||
|Cloudiness of water||
|Packs too hot||
|Packs too cool||
|Packs have an Odor||
A well cared for Hydrocollator can last for years and even the steam packs and terry covers can last for 2-3 years, sometimes longer if well maintained.
If you happen to own a heating unit from a different manufacturer (ie. Whitehall Manufacturing or Richmar), some of the info above may also apply although different brands do offer unique features. Please refer to your instruction manual for proper care of your heating unit.
Rotation of your Steam Packs
Steam packs are manufactured with different colored tabs so that you can more easily rotate them in a busy clinic or athletic training room. For instance you might start the day with white tabs up but as you use them - put the black tabs up so you know which ones may need to soak awhile longer before the next treatment.
Use of Terry Covers or Towels
In order to prevent burns is important to wrap your moist steam pack in a terry cover or with a thick towel. Terry Covers are designed to fit your steam packs and are very useful in treatment as they can be washed and hung to dry.
Instructions on Cleaning your Chattanooga Hydrocollator (PDF 101KB)
Instructions to Install a new Thermostat on your Chattanooga Hydrocollator (PDF 273 KB)
Instructions to Install a new Heating Element on your Chattanooga Hydrocollator (PDF 449 KB)
"HYDROCOLLATOR steam packs accepted". JAMA. 7. 145 (7): 487. Feb 17, 1951.
Chattanooga Hydrocollator cleaning Instructions. (PDF 101KB)
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