Scald Burn Prevention Tips and Information

Nothing is tastier than a hot cup of joe on a cold, gray day.   A piping hot cuppa tea can chase those winter blues away, too.  Do you know what to do if you accidentally spill a hot beverage on yourself or a loved one?

The Collierville Fire Department along with the State Fire Marshal’s Office is sharing scald prevention tips this winter.  A scald burn occurs when contact with hot liquid or steam damages one or more layers of skin.  It usually is caused by a spill of hot food or beverages or by hot tap water in a bath or shower.  Scald burns are painful and potentially life-threatening. The International Assn. of Fire Fighters’ Charitable Foundation notes that 40% of all scald injuries are suffered by children under the age of 4; older adults are also at a greater risk for scald burns. To help avoid scald burns follow these guidelines:

Prevent Tap-Water Scald Burns

  • Provide constant adult supervision of young children, anyone who might experience difficulty removing themselves from hot water on their own, or people who might not recognize the danger associated with turning on the hot water. 

  • Test the water at the faucet. It should be less than 100° Fahrenheit.

  • Mix bath water thoroughly and check the temperature by moving your elbow, wrist or hand with spread fingers through the water before allowing someone to get in. The water should feel warm, not hot, to the touch.

  • Turn the faucet to the “COLD” position when not in use if the tub has a single faucet handle.

  •  When bathing young children, position them away from faucets to prevent them from being able to reach faucet knobs.  

Prevent Cooking-Related Scald Burns

  • To prevent spills due to the overturning of appliances containing hot food or liquids, use the back burner when possible, and or turn pot handles away from the stove’s front edge (or any edge where someone could bump into the pot handles). All appliance cords need to be kept coiled and away from counter edges.

  • Use oven mitts or potholders when moving hot food from ovens, microwave ovens or stovetops. Never use wet oven mitts or potholders, because they can cause scald burns. Replace old or worn-out oven mitts.

  • Open heated food containers slowly, away from the face, to avoid steam burns.

  • Prepackaged microwavable soups are a frequent cause of scald burn injuries (especially noodle soups) because they can easily tip over. Choose prepackaged soups whose containers have a wide base or, to avoid the possibility of a spill, pour the soup into a traditional bowl after heating.

  • Microwaves can heat unevenly and create hot spots, so avoid using them to heat baby formula or baby milk.

  • Young children are at high risk of being burned by hot food and liquids. Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a "kid-free zone" of three feet around the stove, or around any place where hot food or drink is being prepared or carried.  Keep hot drinks away from the edge of tables and counters and off of placemats or tablecloths because young children can pull them down.

  • Never hold a child while you are cooking, drinking a hot liquid, or carrying hot foods or liquids.

  • Use a travel mug with a tight-fitting lid for all hot drinks.  This can help prevent a burn if the cup tips over.

Treating Scald Burns

  • If a minor scald burn occurs (redness and swelling), cool it immediately with running cool water.  Keep the burned area in running cool water for 3 minutes or longer.

  • Do not put ice, butter or lotion on the burn.  This could make it worse.

  • Call your doctor or 911 if the scald burn involves excessive blistering or skin damage.

Now that you know how to prevent and treat scald burns, pour yourself a hot cup of coffee or tea and sip away that winter cabin fever. Spring will be here before you know it!


Collierville Fire Department:
 1251 Peterson Lake Road, Collierville, TN 38017 | (901) 457-2400 | Emergency: 9-1-1

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