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Preventing Hot Water Burns and Scalds

Like fire, hot water from your hot water taps, steam and other hot substances can cause serious burns to adults and children. The outcomes from severe burns and scalds can be devastating causing death or serious injury and extreme suffering which can result in scarring for life.

Things to do to decrease the risk of burns and scalds
It is obvious that injuries that result from burns and scalds have a major impact on all people and especially young children and the elderly. However, burns and scalds are preventable and the severity of burn related injuries can be minimised by following some guidelines.

Regulate the temperature of your hot water service
Many hot water services deliver domestic hot water with an average temperature of 70ºC. However, the ideal temperature for domestic hot water is 50ºC. It's best at 50ºC because:

  • At 60ºC it takes one second for hot water to cause third degree burns

  • At 55ºC it takes 10 seconds

  • At 50ºC it takes five minutes

It seems only a small difference in temperature but it can mean the difference between hospitalisation, skin grafts and scarring for life.

Keep hot drinks and handles away from kids

As well as regulating the temperature of hot water, following some simple steps can prevent burns and scalds in the kitchen. For example:

  • Turn the handles of saucepans towards the back of the stove

  • Keep hot drinks away from the edge of the table or bench

  • Use a cordless kettle to prevent a child pulling it over

  • Use the back hot plates or flames before the front ones

  • Give toddlers their own special mug so they don't drink from an adult's which may contain liquid which is too hot

  • Carry plates to pots, not pots to plates.

First Aid for Burns

  • Remove any wet clothing.

  • Apply cold running water to the area for 30 minutes. Never apply oil, butter, ointments or ice (floating ice in a bucket of cold water is O.K.)

  • Keep the rest of the child warm to prevent shock

  • Seek medical care if the burn involves the face or hands, is blistering or is larger than a fifty cent piece.