A mildly embarrassing thing happened to me at work. I spilled hot tea on my hand. Spilling the tea wasn’t so embarrassing–it was how I did it. No one bumped me. I wasn’t holding a bunch of office papers or anything. I wasn’t distracted. I just reached with my right hand to the cup in my left hand and tipped the cup so it spilled all over my left hand.
I can’t explain it, but the pain was instant. Excessively hot water is dangerous. Water at 150 degrees Fahrenheit can cause third-degree burns in seconds. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 3,800 people injure themselves every year and 34 deaths occur in the home due to scalding from excessively hot water. Older adults and children under the age of 5 are most vulnerable to hot water scalds.
How are people scalded by hot water?
Scalds from hot tap water are one way. A new study published in the magazine Pediatrics titled “Preventing Unintentional Scald Burns: Moving Beyond Tap Water” found most scalds in children were caused by hot cooking or drinking liquids. Many of these scalds were caused when children removed hot substances from microwaves or when an older child, 7 to 14 years of age, was cooking, carrying a scalding substance or supervising a younger child.
What can you do to prevent hot water scalds?
The CPSC recommends lowering your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also install anti-scald devices that automatically shut off the flow of water when it gets too hot.
Other steps include:
• Never leave a child unattended in the bath.
• Hand test water before bathing or showering.
• Never leave a child unattended in the kitchen if you are cooking. Supervise children ages 7 to 14 if they are preparing food.
• Never leave the handle of a pot sticking out where a child can reach up and grab it.
• Keep coffee mugs out of the reach of children.
• Keep the microwave out of the reach of children or teach them the potential dangers of heated foods and liquids.
Andrew Peterson is a Certified Industrial Hygienist with over 10 years of experience working in the environmental and occupational health field. In addition to writing, he is currently the Environment, Health and Safety Manager for a medium-sized company that has been voted one of Fortune Magazine’s Best Places to Work and one of CRO Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens. He lives in California with his wife and adopted pound puppies.