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Many Scalds Can Be Prevented

Each year in the U.S. and Canada, more than 500,000 people are treated for burn injuries—about half of those injuries are scalds.

Scalds are burns from hot liquid such as hot water, grease, hot coffee or tea and candle wax.

Pam Holt, with Mercy Injury Prevention Services and a former burn unit nurse, says scalds account for 30% of the burns treated at Mercy-Springfield each year, and 80% of those cases are kids between the ages of one and four…

"In that age group, one to four-year-olds are role modeling their parents, so if mom has a hot cup of coffee, that child will want to reach for that hot cup of coffee.  They don't understand that it's hot, but they're trying to reach for those things.  In the kitchen, they're reaching up to pull things down on them, so most of those burn injuries are related to those types of mechanisms."

According to Holt, the best treatment for burn injuries is prevention…

"Burn injuries--we can make them better, but we can never make the skin look like it looked before the burn injury.  Burn injuries result in life-long disabling consequences and disfigurement.  If you prevent an injury, it's much better than having to treat an injury."

Holt says parents need to be mindful of keeping hot liquids where children can’t reach them—away from table or counter edges.  She suggests creating a safe zone in the kitchen using baby gates.  And she advises against burning candles.

According to Holt, children and older adults are more susceptible to scalds because they have thinner skin, so even having the temperature of the water heater too high can cause burns…

"The recommended water temperature for your hot water  heater is 120 degrees, and that hot water heater does have a label on it that tells you '120 degrees is the safest.'  Typically what happens is people will try to get more out of their hot water heater and make the hot water last longer, and they think if they turn it up to a higher temperature they're gonna have hot water for longer, and that's absolutely not true."

She says grease fires can cause scalds, as well, when people try to pick up a pan to carry it outside or to the sink.  The safest way to extinguish a grease fire, she says, is to cover the pan with a lid.

For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.