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Scald safety

Scald safety

How scalds happen

Most scalds occur in residences. Scald burns are typically related to ordinary activities – bathing, cooking and eating – and often happen to children because of a lapse in adult supervision or a lack of protective measures. Youngsters may not understand or even be aware of potential dangers of hot liquids (especially water) and foods; they simply trust adults to keep them safe.

In addition, young children have thinner skin that burns more quickly than adults’. People of all ages can be burned in 30 seconds by a flowing liquid that is 130° F; at 140° F, it takes only 5 seconds; at 160° F, it only takes 1 second. For children under 5, these temperatures can cause a burn in half the time.

Quick facts about scald injuries

  • Every day, hundreds of young children with scald burns are taken to emergency rooms.
  • Scalds or other contact burns are the cause of 90 percent of burn injuries to children age 5 and younger.
  • Children under 4 years of age and people with disabilities are at high risk of burn-related death and injury, especially scald and contact burns.
  • Hot tap water accounts for nearly one in four of all scald burns among children and is associated with more deaths and hospitalizations than any other hot liquid.

(Source: Safe Kids USA)

Preventing scalds

According to Safe Kids USA, hot tap-water burns most often occur in the bathroom and tend to be more severe and cover a larger portion of the body than other scald burns. Continuous supervision of young children is the most important factor in preventing tap-water scald burns, but there are additional simple preventive measures that can be taken, including:

  • Lower the temperature settings on water heaters to 120° F (49° C) or less.
  • When filling the bathtub, turn on cold water first. Mix in warmer water carefully.
  • Check the water temperature by rapidly moving your hand through the water. If the water feels hot to an adult, it is too hot for a child.
  • When placing a child in the tub, face them away from faucets and as close to the other end of the tub as possible.

Scalds also occur in the kitchen and dining room. Many of these can be prevented by following these tips:

  • Always supervise children in the kitchen and dining areas.
  • Keep pot handles turned inward; use oven mitts or pot holders. Keep clothing from coming into contact with flames or heating elements.
  • Keep children away from everything that is hot.
  • Follow instructions and cautions for heating items in a microwave oven.
  • Do not use deep fryers with children present.

These suggestions may seem obvious, but given the statistics, they cannot be repeated too often. Burn Awareness Week is a perfect time to take advantage of the complimentary burn prevention materials available from Shriners Hospitals for Children's . These include burn prevention posters, activity books and fact sheets.

Tip sheet: Keep Children Safe from Scalds

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