Scalding Injury Risk Increases in Winter


State health officials warn scalding risks increase significantly during the winter months, especially among young children and the elderly. Scalds occur when contact with hot liquid or steam damages one or more layers of skin. Injuries are painful and require prolonged treatment. They can result in lifelong scarring and possibly death. Frequent sources of scald burns include hot tap water, hot food and beverages and steam. Health officials say most burns occur in the kitchen or bathroom.

Scald burns can be prevented by making a few environmental or behavioral changes. These include setting home water heater thermostats to deliver water at no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, installing anti-scald or tampering devices to stop or interrupt the flow of water when the temperature reaches a predetermined level to prevent hot water from coming out of the tap. Also provide constant adult supervision to young children or anyone else who may have a difficult time getting in and out of the bathtub. Fill the tub to the desired level before getting in. Run cold water first, and then add hot. Turn off hot water first. Mix the water thoroughly and check the temperature by moving your elbow, wrist or hand through it before allowing someone to get in. Install grab bars, nonskid tub or shower mats and shower seats to help safely get in and out of the tub. Also avoid flushing toilets, running water or using the dishwasher while someone is in the shower.

Cooking-related scalds can be prevented by establishing a “kid zone” out of the traffic path between the stove and sink where they can play but be out of the way of stovetops, hot liquids and hot surfaces. Also cook on back burners whenchildren are present and keep pot handles turned away from the edge of the stove. Never drink or carry hot liquids when carrying or holding a child, as quick motions may cause liquids to spill.

If a burn injury occurs, apply cool water to stop the burning process. Remove any clothing, diapers or jewelry around the injured area, cover it with clean, loose bandages and seek medical attention.

For more information about preventing scald burns, contact the American Burn Association at 312-642-9260 or