No one wants to be burned. Even the smallest burn hurts more than a cut the same size.

Larger burns not only hurt, but can result in significant pain, permanent scarring, loss of the use of limbs and even death. Most scald burns can be prevented. Scald burns occur from accidental spills of hot liquids or from hot tap water.

Scald burns happen most often in children 5 and younger and the elderly. Several things can be done to prevent these burns.

For accidental spills, always make sure the handles of pans are turned away so young children cannot reach up and grab them and extension cords to coffee pots and other electric cookers are not hanging off the counter.

Some facts about how quickly you or your child can be burned. About 1-second exposure to 160 degrees water will result in a third-degree burn, which is the most severe burn and will leave a scar.

Thirty seconds of exposure to 130 degrees will cause a third-degree burn. This means children and the elderly who cannot move out of hot water quickly or can’t feel the heat will be burned severely in a very short time — less than half a minute.

In the United States, most home water heaters are heated by either gas or electricity and have a thermostat. You can measure how hot the water is by collecting water from the tap in a cup after letting it run for 2 minutes.

Using a meat or candy thermometer, measure the temperature for 30 seconds. The temperature should be less than 130 degrees — ideally 120 degrees. If it is not, lower the temperature and measure the water again in 24 hours.

Always stay in the bathroom when bathing your child. Keep your child out of the bathtub until the water is filled.

Start with cold water and add hot water to make it warm. Mix the water with your hands to avoid hot spots and measure with your elbow.

Never leave children alone in the tub, particularly if they are able to turn on the hot water tap. If you must leave the room, take your child with you.

Bathing in the sink requires extra care, as most sinks only have a single lever to turn on the water and it is very easy to turn on very hot water.

Treatment of scalds is to put the scalded skin in cold water or cold wet cloths. If still red, hurting or blistered after 30 minutes, go the emergency room.

The only people who should not have their hot water turned down are people with problems with their immune system.

Keeping Kids Healthy

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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