Scald Prevention & Care
The most common type of burn injuries are scalds. A scald is a type of burn caused by hot liquid or steam. Children, elderly and the disabled are especially at risk for scalding. Scalds happen when water is too hot, food and liquids haven’t cooled enough before consuming and liquids either splash from containers or are spilled.
Avoid scalds in the sink or bath:
- Install anti-scald devices on faucets and shower heads. This device helps regulate water temperature and adjusts or shuts off flow when temperatures suddenly peak too high.
- Test water at each faucet. The temperature should be under 100⁰ F. The water heater temperature should be under 120⁰ F.
- Always test water before allowing a child to get in a bath tub or wash hands at the faucet.
- Move your hand, wrist and forearm through the water to test the temperature.
- A helpful tool is a temperature gauge that can be placed in the water, but a touch test should still be performed.
- The water should feel warm, not hot to the touch. Children already have more delicate skin, so err on the cool side of water temperatures.
- Never let children touch or play with faucets. They can be hot to the touch and cause burns, or accidently turned on and release scalding water.
Avoid scalds in the kitchen:
- Be sure to place hot liquids on the back burners, on the back of counters, or in the center of the table to avoid spilling.
- Always turn pot handles towards the back of the stove to avoid children or pets grabbing them or people bumping in to the pot.
- Never allow children to carry hot liquids across a room.
- Develop a “Kid-Free Zone” in areas where hot liquids present a danger.
- Stir food to even out temperatures before testing food and liquids for serving.
- Never heat a baby bottle in the microwave. The temperatures are uneven. Instead, use warm water from the faucet.
- Never hold babies while cooking.
- Allow microwaved food to cool before opening, and remove lids away from the face to avoid scalding from the steam released.
- Consider putting prepackaged foods in wider, safer containers before microwaving. Narrow soup packages are a leading cause of microwave scalds.
Treating a scald:
- Treat a scald immediately. You must first stop the burning process.
- Hold the burn under cool water for about 15 minutes, until the pain subsides.
- Do not use ice, ice-cold water or butter to cool the burn. It can damage or infect the skin.
- If the burn area is large, in a sensitive area, blistered, swollen or presenting extreme pain, seek medical attention immediately.
- After cooling the scald in water, wrap the burn loosely with a sterile gauze bandage. Leave in place for 24 hours.
- If you have no reason to avoid the use of over-the-counter pain relievers take aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen. Follow dosage guidelines and be cautious when giving to children or teenagers. If you have any doubts about taking medicines, contact your doctor.
- Gently wash the scald with soap and water daily after the first 24 hours. Keep it covered with gauze between washings.
- Aloe creams and Antimicrobial ointment can be used after a couple of days to soothe and moisturize the skin and avoid infections.
When to seek medical attention:
- If the scald is a second degree burn or higher seek medical attention. Second degree burns present blisters, swelling and severe pain. With a third-degree burn, the skin is leathery and charred, and requires emergency medical attention.
- If there is a fever, redness, increase in pain or oozing seek medical care.
- If you suspect the skin is infected, regardless of the burn degree, seek medical attention.