Experts Offer Tips to Prevent Scalding Injuries

February 3, 2016

National Burn Awareness Week aims to reduce high rates of such injuries

TubOf the nearly 600,000 burn injuries seen in emergency departments nationwide each year, a large number are related to scalding, or burns caused by heated fluids. Approximately 75 percent of these cases are injured children. For the third consecutive year, National Burn Awareness Week, February 1 to 7, is focused on the reduction of scalding injuries.

Dina Morrissey, MD, research associate for the Injury Prevention Center at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and David Harrington, MD, director of the Rhode Island Burn Center at Rhode Island Hospital, are offering safety reminders and prevention tips for local families in an effort to reduce scalding injuries.

“Yet again this past year, an average of two-thirds of all burns admitted at Hasbro Children’s Hospital were related to scalding injuries, according to data from the Rhode Island Hospital Trauma Registry,” said Morrissey. “National Burn Awareness Week is again this year focused on scalding injuries because of the high number of scald injuries seen in emergency departments.”

“Because of the proportions of a child’s body, they often have burns over a much larger surface, and can be burned far more extensively, more quickly,” said Harrington. “But, we also must keep elderly dependents in mind and take precautions at bath time or while cooking in the kitchen.”  

Harrington and Morrissey offered the following safety tips to help prevent unintentional injuries from scalding:

In the kitchen:

  • Always keep pot handles turned inward and use the back burners if possible.
  • Encourage the use of oven mitts and potholders to handle hot items.
  • Use pan lids to prevent hot liquid spatter and spills on the stove. Use appropriate protective equipment such as an oven mitt when removing hot pan lids.
  • Be careful when heating liquids or steaming food (popcorn, frozen vegetables, etc.) in the microwave.
  • Microwaves often heat unevenly, so be sure to stir liquids thoroughly after heating.
  • Always supervise young children in the kitchen.
  • Never hold a hot beverage while holding a child or caring for a dependent adult.
  • Never leave a hot beverage or plate of food unattended or close to edge of a counter or table when a young child is present.
  • Avoid the use of tablecloths and placemats. Young children may pull on them, causing a spill of hot liquid.
  • Do not use a microwave oven to heat baby formula.
  • Do not allow young children to use a microwave oven.

At bath time:  

  • Make sure home’s water heater is set no higher than 120 degrees F.
  • Always check the water temperature before putting a child or dependent adult in the tub. Both young children and the elderly have thinner skin compared to the average adult, and can burn more quickly and at a lower temperature.
  • Check the temperature of tub or sink water by placing your hand in the water for a full 10 seconds.
  • Consider purchasing a bathtub thermometer that will alert you if the water is too hot for a child or dependent adult.
  • Never leave a child or dependent adult unattended in the bathtub.

Christina Spaight O'Reilly

Senior Public Relations Officer
Rhode Island Hospital