The risk of burns at home is higher than you might think. Most people have suffered a heat-related accident at home, often as a result of scalding hot water. Burns can be mild, or severe injuring more than one layer of skin. The painful site will either simply turn red, or can blister and become very raw. Burns are painful because the skin is highly sensitive. However, burns that go deeper become more painful as they can reach the nerves. Whether you live alone, have kids or care for elderly loved ones, these tips will help you avoid the dangers of scalding water and prevent burns.
Common Causes of Scalds
Scalds are most commonly caused at home via either hot water or steam. Common causes include:
- Spilling of hot beverages, soup, or hot water
- Steam from the oven, a kettle or microwave
- Tap water burns if the water is set too high
Scald burns take only seconds to cause painful injury.
How to Prevent Household Scalds
You can avoid scald related accidents by taking these steps:
- Test the waters: Whether you are using water for household cleaning, or personal hygiene, it is important to test the water temperature before plunging right in. Always start filling tibs, sinks or buckets of hot water with cold water first for a few inches. Then turn on the hot water and test the water carefully when it comes out of the tap. Adjust it to a comfortable level of heat. Never, let the water run in the bathtub or fill the sink or a bucket without tentatively testing the water before use with your elbow or a quick dip of a finger or toe. This will avoid larger burns and also provide a warning you need to cool the water down before use.
- Adjust the temperature: Even if you are just washing your hands, a quick test and adjustment are required. Remember, that even if you turn on the hot water and it seems comfortable at first touch, it will continue to heat as it runs. Therefore, always turn on the cold tap as well, to get a comfortable temperature.
- Adjust the water heater: This is perhaps the most important tip to help prevent household scalds. While you can adjust the water as mentioned above, scalds occur from the hot water tap if you have your water heater temperature set too high. Often, they are automatically set to a default of 140 degrees, and yet it only takes a water temperature of over 120 degrees to sustain a burn. Therefore, always set your water temperature below 120 degrees to reduce the risk of scalds.
- Microwave use: Scalds from steam can easily occur when removing food from the microwave. To reduce risk follow these tips:
- Make sure your microwave oven is easy to reach for everyone, ideally lower than face level for the shortest person in the home (Kids should not use the microwave on their own)
- Only use microwave-safe dishware to heat food
- Do not place an uncracked egg in the microwave
- Always set lids of containers to the side of the dish, or use a microwave oven cover to allow steam to escape and avoid build-up
- Always puncture the plastic wrap of microwave dinners to vent steam
- Allow heated food to stand for a minute or two before removing it from the microwave oven
- Slowly remove lids to avoid being scalded by steam, and keep your face back from the container
- Stir food halfway through the heating time to make sure the food is not overly hot in one area
- One tap rule: Make sure you have a rule in the home that if someone is in the shower no one can run a cold water tap or flush the toilet. This takes cold water away from the shower, and can quickly cause a serious scald, especially if your hot water heater is set to temperatures above 120 degrees.
- Kettles and pots: Always keep kettles and pots with liquids positioned on the back burner whenever possible so they are least likely to cause accidents. When boiling water in a kettle, turn the handle towards you when the water has boiled, so steam escaping from the spout can’t burn you. Keep handles when cooking turned inwards so people are less likely to knock them, and tiny hands can’t reach them.
These tips will help reduce the risk for burns from scalding hot water in your household.