Children, older adults and people with disabilities at higher risk for scald burns

Published on January 6, 2012
NFPA releases new scald prevention tip sheet

Download NFPA's tip sheet on scald prevention. (PDF, 348 KB) 

January 6, 2012The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors is urging the public to be cautious when handling hot liquids and soups. Scald burns are the second leading cause of all burn injuries and children, older adults and people with disabilities are especially at risk.

“In winter, there’s nothing as comforting as a warm cup of soup,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for NFPA. “But if you’re not careful this simple meal can turn painful.”

Scald burns are the second leading cause of all burn injuries. According to the study “Instant cup of soup: design flaws increase risk of burns” released by the Journal of Burn Care & Research, prepackaged microwavable soups, especially noodle soups, are a frequent cause of scald burn injuries because they can easily tip over, pouring hot liquid and noodles on the person.

“It is amazing that many people believe that hot water is not a common cause of severe burns. For a child, it is the most common burn injury. Scalds are almost always preventable.  When they occur, a child may be scarred for life. Next time you are cooking or even holding a cup of coffee in your hand think about the small ones below you,” said Dr. David Greenhalgh, a  co-author of the study and Chief of Burns at Shriners Hospitals for Children Northern California and UC Davis Medical Center.

“We see the devastating and sometimes lifelong consequences of scalds every day. It is important to remind the public to take precautions to avoid injury,” said Amy Acton, executive director of the Phoenix Society. A scald injury can happen at any age. To help prevent scald injuries, NFPA and the Phoenix Society offer some safety tips:

  • Teach children that hot things can burn.
  • Test the water at the faucet. It should be less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius).
  • Always supervise a child in or near a bathtub.  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 3 feet (1 meter) around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried. Never hold a child while you are cooking, drinking a hot liquid, or carrying hot foods or liquids.
  • Allow microwaved food to cool before eating and open it slowly, away from the face.
  • 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 3-5 minutes.  Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Get medical help if needed.

For more information on reducing the risk of these types of burns, view NFPA’s scald prevention tip sheet. 

About the Phoenix Society
The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors is the leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering anyone affected by a burn injury through peer support, education, and advocacy. Visit the Phoenix Society’s website at www.phoenix-society.org.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

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Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275

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