If you have young children, protecting your children from scalding is one of the most important things you can do for their safety. Every year 200,000 children sustain burn injuries due to accidental scalding. In fact, scalding is the most common burn injury in children under the age of 4. It is estimated that half of all scalding injuries are from spilled food and drinks. The rest are from hot tap water and hot items, such as heaters, stoves, and irons.
Causes of Scalding
Scalding injuries caused by wet or moist heat account for one-third of all admissions to burn centers. Scalding causes deeper damage than a burn from dry heat. These injuries often heal slower and cause more scarring, as well. Most scalds result in first or second degree burns, but some are more severe and cause third degree burns.
The leading cause of scalding injuries is hot tap water from faucets, baths or showers. Other common causes of these burns include hot beverages (coffee, tea, soup) or food, and steam from cooking or from radiators.
According to the American Burn Association, a scalding injury can occur very quickly:
- In as little as one second when skin comes into contact with water at 155 degrees Fahrenheit (68 degrees Celsius).
- Burns can occur in just two seconds from water at 148 degrees Fahrenheit (64 degrees Celsius).
- Scalding can occur in 5 seconds from water at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius).
- Burns can occur within 15 seconds from water at 133 degrees Fahrenheat (56 degrees Celsius).
Roughly 100 deaths occur each year from scalding injuries. Those most at risk are older adults, young children, and persons with disabilities. Roughly 75 percent of burns in young children are from scalding.
Prevention from Scalding
Prevention of scalding injuries is mostly common sense. However, when rushed or distracted, accidents will still happen. Often, we can maintain focus by forming strong habits for our care of young children, older adults (whose skin is often as delicate as that of a child), and persons with disabilities. Here are a few tips and suggestions to help you protect your children and elders from scalding.
- When a child or elder is in the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room with you, don’t take a phonecall. You can return the call later.
- Maintain close supervision of the most susceptible in the kitchen and bathroom.
- Test the water temperature two or three times before submerging a child, elder, or disabled person.
- Test the temperature of foods and drinks before serving them.
- Set your hot water thermostat to 120 – 125 degrees.
- When cooking, turn handles toward the back of the stove so they cannot be reached by young children.
- Teach your children early that hot water, hot food and drink, and radiator steam are dangerous. Teach them always to let you turn on water for them.
- No matter how much they want to help, don’t allow young children to carry hot foods or drinks to the table.
- Purchase a water temperature thermometer for elders and persons with disabilities.
With these preventive steps, and by forming strong habits of focused attention when young children, elders and persons with disabilities are around hot liquids or steam, you can protect your children and elders, as well as the disabled, from scalding.