Why a hot drink safety solution?8 October 2009
Because in a split second, a nice cup of tea can scar a child for life.
A toddler that reaches up to the kitchen bench and pulls a cup of hot tea over him – or herself, or a cup accidentally falls from the coffee table during a busy visit of friends and family .… this is all that it takes to cause an unnecessary injury that can have consequences for life.
Quick Facts about Scalds from Hot Beverages
- The skin of small children is so thin, that water at a temperature of 60°C (140°F) will cause a 3 rd degree burn within three seconds.
- You have to imagine that one cup of hot liquid spilled over a baby or a toddler is the equivalent of a bucket of hot water being spilled over an adult.
- Even after standing to cool off for as long as 5 — 10 minutes, tea may still be hot enough to cause a serious burn.
- The biggest risk group is toddlers between 1 and 2 years of age.
- 3rd degreee scalding burns may require treatment by skin grafts and a ten — to fourteen day stay in hospital.
Scalding burn statistics
Worldwide, scalds account for 60 to 80 percent of burn injuries for young children.
- UK: over 15,000 children are badly scalded from hot beverages every year. Over 1,100 of these children require major treatment.
- USA: 100,000 children scalded by hot drinks and hot food every year. Over 24,000 children are treated every year in emergency rooms for scalds from spilled beverages. A 2-year old boy even tragically died in May 2010 after suffering a scald to his neck, torso and arms, when reaching for a tumbler with hot water that had been boiled to prepare tea.
- Australia: an average of almost 2,500 children aged 1 — 4 are affected by scalds every year; and 63% of these had been burned by hot liquid
- Canada: 325 children are admitted each year to hospital with scald burns.
- Netherlands: 10,000 accidents with children suffering scalding burns from hot tea and coffee. Out of these, over 500 require major treatment
- Sweden: In a study of burn-injured children treated in health centres and hospitals in the Malmo region, 118 of the 148 burned children had suffered scalds, and out of those, 84 children (71%) had a burn caused by hot liquid. The greatest number was boys between one and two years old. Almost all the accidents (96%) occurred in home environment, while a family member was next to the child.
The Do’s and Don’ts of How to Treat a Scald Burn
- Flood the injured area immediately with cool water for 10 to 15 minutes
- Remove clothing from the injured area once the burn has cooled
- Loosely cover with non-fluffy material (e.g. loosely wrapped cling film)
- Flood again with cold water if the scald starts to hurt again.
- See the doctor if the scald is larger than a poststamp
- Remove clothing if the material is sticking to the skin
- Touch the injured area or burst any blisters – this can cause infection
- Put any creams, ointments, grease, antiseptic spray or plasters on the injury
Resources and further reading
Kitchen Scalds and Thermal Burns in Children Five Years and Younger, by Dorothy A. Drago, MA, MPH (published in Pediatrics, Vol Vol. 115 No. 1 January 2005)
Hot Water Burns Like Fire: short information on an extensive Scalds Prevention Campaign, Australia. A full report from the project also available.
Scalds: A Burning Issue. Defining the Problem, Prevention, Diagnose and Treatment. R H Demling, Leslie De Santi, Jason Orgill, Burns Center, Brigham & Women’s hospital, Boston, MA, USA
Scalds prevention and information homepage, Kidsafe Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia
Hot beverage burns: an 11 year experience of the Yorkshire Regional Burns Center ‚ UK
A study of Burns in Children, by Ruiz et al, Department of Plastic Surgery and Burn Center, Hospital La Fe, Valencia, Spain
Facts and figures from Salamanders — Young Burns Survivors UK
Injury report from Canadian hospitals on scalds associated with hot beverages
Scald burns section on the homepage of the Burn Foundation
Hot beverages focus of research, Waikato University, New Zealand
Useful Burns information from KidsHealth from Neumors
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