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How to Choose and Use Mattress Pads

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.

What are mattress pads?

Mattress pads, or overlays, lie on top of a mattress to help decrease pressure on the skin. This helps improve blood flow and prevent sores in people who stay in bed most of the time. There are many different types of mattress pads. The most common types are egg crate and alternating pressure pads.

What is an egg crate pad?

This soft foam pad has bumps and dips that look like a large egg carton. Follow these steps to use the egg crate pad:

  • Take the sheets off of the bed.
  • Place the egg crate pad on top of the mattress with the bumps facing toward the ceiling.
  • Place a fitted sheet over the egg crate pad and mattress.

What is an alternating pressure pad?

An alternating pressure pad is made of soft plastic and divided into sections. The sections are filled with water or air. A tube goes from the pad to an electric pump. The pump inflates and deflates the sections in the pad. Follow these steps to put the pad on the bed:

  • Read and follow the directions that came with the pad.
  • Check the cord and plug of the electric pump to make sure they are not cracked or torn.
  • Take the sheets off of the bed.
  • Put the pad on top of the mattress and unfold it. Follow the instructions to make sure the correct side faces up.
  • Put the electric pump on a footstool or on the floor where no one will trip over it.
  • Hook the tubes on the pad to the electric pump. Make sure the tubing is not twisted or pinched.
  • Turn on the electric pump and check the pad to make sure that the sections are filling and emptying.
  • Cover the pad with a fitted sheet.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.