Pediatricians usually review safety concerns with new parents and often, potential burns from hot water top that list of safety concerns. Approximately 112,000 people suffer from hot water burns annually and it is estimated that as many as one third of those people are under the age of 14.
It is estimated that about one half of hot water burns in United States pediatric patients occur when parents put children into bath water that is too hot. Hot water heaters are typically installed in homes with a set water temperature between 140 and 150 degrees. At those temperatures it would take between 2 and 5 seconds for a child to receive serious third degree burns. While this might seem frightening, there are numerous ways to prevent hot water burns.
Hot Water Burn Prevention
The first thing that you want to do to prevent a hot water burn is to make sure that your hot water heater is set no higher than 125 degrees. The best way to do this is to let the hot water run in your kitchen sink first thing in the morning, before anyone in the house has used hot water that day. After the water has run for a few minutes, carefully hold an outdoor or cooking thermometer in the water stream until the temperature stops rising and remains stable. If the temperature is 125 degrees or lower then there is no need to take further action. However, if the temperature is over 125 degrees then you should locate the thermostat on your hot water and reduce the temperature. If you do adjust the temperature then it is important to retest it again, in the same manner as your initial testing. That way you can be sure that the thermostat is functioning properly and that you and your family are safe.
Of course, not all hot water burns occur from hot water heaters. A hot water burn can also occur when water is boiling on the stove, for example. It is important to try to prevent these types of cooking accidents by using sturdy, well made cookware that will not break during the cooking process and by teaching young children to stay away from the stove. If an accident does occur, then treatment should be sought immediately.
Treatment: What To Do When a Burn Occurs
No matter how diligent a person is in his or her efforts to prevent a hot water burn, sometimes burns occur anyway. In those cases, it is very important that a responsible adult knows how to handle the situation.
If the burn seems minor in nature than hold the affected skin under a stream of cool running water for about 15 minutes and then apply a loose bandage. If the burn is on an infant or seems severe then call 911. While you are waiting for emergency services, try to regulate the victimís temperature by adding or removing blankets, as needed. Also, try to elevate the burned area, if possible.
Burns are serious injuries even when they are caused by hot water instead of the flames from a fire. Both prevention and treatment should be taken seriously in order to keep people safe from hot water scalding and burns.