Hardly a day goes by that Dr. Fred Mullins and the other medical professionals at Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Ga., don’t see a child who has been burned by hot water.

“Scald burns are the leading cause of burns among children,” said Dr. Mullins, the medical director for the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital, and the president of the Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc. “We see burns ranging from minor skin irritations to large scale, deep tissue injuries, and they are often some of the most painful burns we treat.”

Each year in the United States, fires and burns result in almost 4,000 deaths and more than 745,000 non-hospitalized injuries among all age groups, according to the American Burn Association. Scalds account for 75 percent of the burns to children, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.  Of those, one in four is caused by hot tap or bath water.

Dr. Mullins said children are vulnerable to scald injuries because their skin is thinner than adults and it takes less time for the injury to occur. Older adults face similar risks due to thin skin, Dr. Mullins said.

“There are some simple ways to avoid scaled burns in the home,” Dr. Mullins said. “The best rule of thumb is to always test the temperature of water before it touches a child.”

It’s also important to check the thermostat on your hot water heater. It should be set at no higher than 120 degrees. Other tips to avoid scalds, especially those that can occur in the kitchen, include:

  • Create a three-foot “safe zone” around appliances in the kitchen. 
  • Never leave any unattended items on the stove top, and make sure all handles are out of the reach of children.
  • Never drink or carry hot liquids while carrying or holding a child.
  • Keep all hot items away from the sides of the table.
  • Remember, items heated in the microwave can be exceptionally hot and cause internal burns.
  • Try to avoid using tablecloths which could allow a child to pull hot liquids off a table.

About Doctors Hospital: Doctors Hospital is a full-service, acute care hospital. We specialize in Women’s Services, Orthopedics, Cancer Care and are home to  the Joseph M. Still Burn Center, the largest burn center in the United States. We are a community leader of quality care as evidenced by our recognition as a Top Performer on Key Quality Measures by The Joint Commission for the fourth year in a row.