Most people easily recognize the dangers of stoves, radiators, candles, and matches around their children and take the necessary steps to protect their children from burns. Water scald burns are a less anticipated injury due to the fact that we don’t generally expect water to injure our children. However, young children, older adults, and people with disabilities are more at risk for being injured by scalds. In fact, according to the American Burn Association, more than 30% of patients cared for at burn centers in the U.S. are treated for scalds.
In young children, hot water scalds typically occur in the home when a child is left unattended in the bathroom, when he/she is placed in water that is too hot, when another child turns on the hot water while the child is in the tub, or when the child is bathed by an inexperienced caregiver.
Here are some tips from the American Burn Association for preventing water scalds:
- Set home water heaters no higher than 120° F
- The safest temperature for bathing an infant is 98° F
- Consider installing an anti-scald device on your faucet and shower heads. These devices stop the flow of water when the temperature reaches a pre-determined level, preventing hot water from coming out before scalding occurs
- Avoid flushing toilets, running water or using the dish/clothes washer while anyone is showering/bathing to avoid sudden jumps in water temperatures
Ensure young children have constant supervision while bathing
- Fill the tub to the desired level and turn the water off. Mix the water thoroughly and test its temperature with your elbow or wrist before letting anyone get in
- If filling a container with water for rinsing, test the water in the container before using it
When not in use, turn the faucet to the cold position
Following these guidelines should help prevent hot water scald burns. Generally, with water at 120° F, serious injury can occur in 5 seconds. Water that is 140° F can cause serious injury in as few as five seconds and water at 155° F can cause serious injury in just one second. Remember, scald burns are preventable! For more information, see the American Burn Association.