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Fire Chief’s Colulmn: Scalding – A Burning Issue

By on Mar 13 2013.
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Springfield Fire Department

Springfield Fire Department

The following column is from Springfield Fire Department Chief James Sanford:

In conjunction with the American Burn Association, the Springfield Fire Department is providing information relating to scald burns in the home. Scald burns are painful injuries that can require prolonged treatment. These injuries may result permanent scarring and even death. Prevention can be accomplished through simple changes in behavior and the home environment.

Tap water scalds are often more severe than cooking-related scalds. The American Burn Association recommends the following simple safety tips to decrease the risk:

  • Set home water heater thermostats no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. To measure your water temperature, allow the hot water to run for three to five minutes then test with a water thermometer. If the temperature is high, adjust the water heater thermostat, but you may have to wait a day for the temperature drop. Re-test and re-adjust as necessary.
  • Provide constant adult supervision of young children around hot water. Before placing a child in the tub, you should gather all necessary supplies and keep them within easy reach.
  • Always fill the tub to desired level before getting in. For the risk that someone may fall into the tub while filling, first run cold water then add hot to prevent scalding. Mix the water thoroughly and check the water temperature before attempting to get in.
  • Avoid flushing toilets, running water, using dishwasher or clothes washer while anyone is showering.
  • Install anti-scald or tempering devices. These heat sensitive plumbing fixtures stop or interrupt the water flow when the temperature reaches a pre-determined level and prevent dangerous hot water from coming out of the tap.

Cooking-related scalds are also easy to prevent. Some things you can do to make your home safer from cooking-related burns include:

  • Establish a “kid zone” out of the traffic path between the stove and sink where children can safely play and still be supervised. Keep young children in high chairs or play yards, a safe distance from counter, stovetops, hot liquids, hot surfaces or other cooking hazards.
  • Cook on back burners when young children are present. Keep all pot handles turned back, away from the stove edge. ALL appliance cords should be coiled and away from the counter edge.
  • During mealtime, place hot items in the center of the table, at least 10 inches from the table edge. Use non-slip placemats instead of tablecloths if toddlers are present.
  • Never drink or carry hot liquids while carrying or holding a child. Quick motions may cause spilling of the liquid onto the child.


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