Who can resist the aroma of cookies baking or the appetizing sauces simmering on the stovetop? But before you go dipping an extremity into the pot to taste that scrumptious recipe, know that scalds from cooking liquids, grease and food – as well as tap water and steam – are responsible for most burns.

A scalding injury can happen at any age. Particularly at risk are children, older adults and people with disabilities. Dreadful injuries can occur from hot liquids from bath water, hot coffee and even microwaved soup. The second leading cause of all burn injuries are scalding burns.

Young children have thinner skin, resulting in deeper burns than adults for the same temperature and exposure time to a scalding substance. The proportion of a child’s body that is exposed to any given amount of a scalding substance is also greater. The same cup of spilled coffee will burn a much larger percent of a small child’s body.

Small children also have little control of their environment, less perception of danger and less ability to escape a burning situation on their own. Children grow fast and can reach new, dangerous things every day. They do not realize that hot liquids burn like fire.

Older adults, like young children, also have thinner skin, so hot liquids cause deeper burns with even brief exposure. Their ability to feel heat may be decreased due to certain medical conditions or medications so they may not realize water is too hot until injury has occurred.

Because they have poor microcirculation, heat is removed from burned tissue rather slowly compared to younger adults. Older adults may also have conditions that make them more prone to falls in the bathtub or shower or while carrying hot liquids.

Individuals who may have physical, mental or emotional challenges or require some type of assistance from caregivers are at high risk for all types of burn injuries including scalds. The disability may be permanent or temporary due to illness or injury and vary in severity from minor to total dependency on others.

Mobility impairments, slow or awkward movements, muscle weakness or fatigue, and slower reflexes increase the risk of spills while moving hot liquids. Burns to the lap are common when a person attempts to carry hot liquids or food while seated in a wheelchair. Moving hot liquids can be extremely difficult for someone who uses a cane or walker.

Sensory impairments can result in decreased sensation, especially to the hands and feet, so the person may not realize if something is too hot. Changes in a person’s intellect, perception, memory, judgment or awareness may hinder the person’s ability to recognize a dangerous situation – such as a tub filled with scalding water – or respond appropriately to remove themselves from danger.

Listed below are some safety tips from the National Fire Prevention Association:

  • Teach children that hot things can burn. Install anti-scald devices on tub faucets and shower heads.
  • Always supervise a child in or near a bathtub.
  • Test the water at the faucet. It should be less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or 38 degrees Celsius.
  • Before placing a child in the bath or getting in the bath yourself, test the water. Test the water by moving your hand, wrist and forearm through the water. The water should feel warm, not hot, to the touch.
  • Place hot liquids and food in the center of a table or toward the back of a counter.
  • Have a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food or  drinks are prepared or carried.
  • Open microwaved food slowly, away from the face.
  • Never hold a child while you are cooking, drinking a hot liquid or carrying hot foods or liquids.
  • Never heat a baby bottle in a microwave oven. Heat baby bottles in warm water from the faucet.
  • Allow microwaved food to cool before eating.
  • 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.
  • Treat a burn right away. Cool the burn with cool water for three to five minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Get medical help if needed.

For more information about fire, burn and scalding prevention, visit the National Fire Prevention Association website at http://www.nfpa.org/education, the American Burn Association website at http://www.ameriburn.org or contact the fire prevention offices at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston at 221-2727, JBSA-Lackland at 671-2921 or JBSA-Randolph at 652-6915.

(Source: National Fire Prevention Association website at http://www.nfpa.org/education)

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