The majority of scald burns (84%) occur in the home and in children under the age of five, the in-home injury rate increases to 95%. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimate that there are more than 300 children seen in emergency rooms every day. The most common cause of burn injuries to children is scalds from hot liquids. It only takes about two seconds of exposure to water that is 148 degrees F to cause burns that are serious enough for surgery and the majority of these burns are preventable.
Tips to Prevent Scald Burns
Scalds from hot tap water are sometimes the most severe. To prevent the risk of scalding from hot water, set your water heater to 120 degrees F or just below the medium setting. Other prevention tips include:
- Use the back burners and turn pan handles toward the back of the stove to prevent children from pulling them down.
- Do not let children near the stove while you are cooking
- Do not place hot drinks on edge of counters and tables
- Use a mug with a lid for all of your hot drinks
- Use a thermometer to test bath water and run hands through the water to check for hot spots
- Stir and test food that has been cooked in the microwave before serving
- Never hold or carry a child while you have hot drinks in your hand
When to Go to the Emergency Room
Burn severity depends on how much skin is damaged and the depth of the burn. There are 3 categories of burns:
- First degree burns do not need to be treated by a healthcare provider. These burns are the least serious type and only the outer layer of skin is involved. There may be some pain, swelling and redness. First-degree burns should be soaked in cool water for about 5 minutes, then apply an antibiotic ointment and wrap in a dry gauze bandage.
- Second degree burns are more serious and will cause white, red or splotchy skin, pain, swelling and blisters. A second degree burn that is smaller than 3-inches can be treated at home in the same manner as a first degree burn, except the burn should be placed in cool water for 15 minutes. If the burn is larger than 3-inches or it covers the face, feet, hands, groin, buttocks or a major joint, it should be treated as major burn, so you should seek immediate medical attention.
- A third degree burn is the most serious type of burn. These burns require a call to 9-1-1 and immediate medical attention. With this type of burn all layers of the skin, the underlying fat and sometimes the bone and muscle. Someone with a third degree burn needs to go to the hospital immediately! Do not remove clothing that is stuck to the burn and do not soak the burn or apply ointment. Third degree burn victims may also have problems breathing, carbon monoxide poisoning and/or other toxic effects if there was smoke inhalation along with the burn.