Each year, about 21,000 children are treated for scald burns, and younger children are particularly at risk. Most scalds happen in the home and are caused by hot food or beverages or hot tap water. Youngsters have thinner skin than adults, so something that might cause a minor burn to an adult might cause a much more serious burn to a child.
Common sense and proper supervision go a long way to preventing scalds. Follow these tips:
- In the kitchen. Create a no-kids zone around the stove and the path between your stove and sink. Make sure high chairs and playpens are a safe distance from your stove top and from countertops where hot food containers, hot liquids or other hazards are placed while you cook. Keep child walkers out of the kitchen: they may boost children up so they can reach pot handles and cords. Use the back burners on your stove, and turn pot handles toward the back of your stove top. Make sure all appliance cords are out of reach — the oil in a deep fryer, for example, can cause a serious burn in less than one second. Don’t let children stand on a chair to stir food cooking on a stovetop. Don’t let small children play with pots: they can’t tell the difference between a pot that’s safe to touch and a pot that’s dangerously hot. Don’t let children under the age of 7 operate a microwave—they may be badly scalded by the steam that builds up in containers.
- Around the house. Avoid tablecloths—young children may pull on them and dump hot food on themselves. Don’t place mugs with hot beverage on surfaces — such as a low coffee table — where children can reach them. Never heat baby bottles in the microwave (especially those with plastic liners) and always test the temperature of formula or milk on your wrist or hand before feeding a baby with a bottle. Make sure that potpourri pots and hot steam vaporizers are out of reach, and carefully supervise children if you have hot water/steam radiators.
- In the bathroom. Proper supervision is the single most important factor in avoiding scalds from tap water. Never leave a young child alone during a bath — the child may play with the faucet. Always test the temperature of a child’s bath water: it should feel warm, not hot. If your tub has a single faucet, turn it to the cold setting after filling the tub. Lower the temperature setting on your hot water heater.
- The safest temperature for bathing a young child is 100° F.