What to Do If You Get a Scald Burn in the Kitchen

Posted by Perspectives Blog Team on Feb 24, 2016 12:46:32 PM

scalding.jpgIt takes only seconds for hot water to cause a third-degree burn.

Each year, more than 500,000 scald burns occur in the United States, according to the Burn Foundation. To avoid scalding, keep the temperature on your water heater set no higher than 120˚F. And never leave young children unattended in the bathroom, near a sink or in the bathtub.

What Is a Scald?

Skin burned by boiling water is said to be scalded. When the skin is scalded, tissue and cells are damaged and liquids may ooze from the skin to replace lost fluids. In severe cases, you can go into shock from loss of fluids.

Who Is at Risk?

Anyone exposed to hot water can be scalded, but children and older adults are more at risk. In fact, according to the American Burn Association, 62 percent of scald burns treated in a burn center are in children under the age of 5. Many of these burns are from spills. Be sure to keep small children away from the stove while cooking and use the back burners when you can.

Each year, more than 500,000 scald burns occur in the United States, according to the Burn Foundation.

What You Should Do

Prompt home treatment can ease the pain, but some scald burns require medical attention, such as those that cover a large area. Here’s what to do if you get a hot-water burn.

  1. Identify the degree of injury. First-degree burns are typically red, swollen and very painful. Second-degree burns may cause swelling, blistering and even more pain. Get emergency medical care for all third-degree burns, which cause the skin to char and look leathery or white.
  2. Keep your cool. Immerse or pour cold water over burned skin for at least 10 minutes. Butter and ice should not be used.
  3. Take off jewelry and clothing that is touching the affected area. Don’t apply any ointments before you see or talk to a doctor.
  4. Lightly cover the burn area with gauze or a clean cloth if gauze is not available.
Did You know?

In just seconds, hot water can cause third-degree burns at the following temperatures:

  • 133˚F in 15 seconds
  • 140˚F in 5 seconds
  • 149˚F in 2 seconds
  • 156˚F in 1 second

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Review Date: January 21, 2016
Reviewed By: Perry Pitkow, MD
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Topics: Emergency Medicine

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Perspectives highlights the expertise and services provided by the physicians, specialists, nurses and other healthcare providers at Einstein Healthcare Network. Through this blog, we share information about new treatments and technologies, top-tier clinical teams and the day-to-day interactions that reinforce our commitment to delivering quality care with compassion. Here, you will also find practical advice for championing your health and wellness.

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