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The Dangers of Scalding Water and How to Prevent Them

Most of us have experienced a burn to our skin at some point, so we know how painful and long-lasting this incredibly unpleasant experience can be. But while you’re probably well-aware of the need to be careful around the stove, open flames, and the like, you might not realize that one of the most significant burn risks in your home is something you use countless times per day: your water.

“Scalding,” or being burned by water,” is one of the most common household injuries and an excruciating type of burn. Nearly 35% of people admitted to burn centers are there due to a scalding injury – this is second only to the 43% injured by an open flame, as noted by Ameriburn.org in 2016.

And yet, many people don’t know that the hot water in their home might regularly reach temperatures well above the scalding point.

What Temperature is Scalding?

It’s one thing to say that water is “hot,” but an entirely different matter when dealing with scalding-hot water. Technically speaking, the scalding water temperature is 120 degrees Fahrenheit and above.

Even though the scalding temperature initially sounds pretty high, you might be surprised to learn that most water heaters are automatically set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

That means that if someone – like a child or even an unsuspecting adult – were to turn a shower or faucet handle to “hot,” the water would easily surpass scaling temperatures.

Why Scalding Water is So Dangerous

Long before it reaches the point of boiling, water can be hot enough to cause serious injuries.

Just three seconds of exposure to scalding-hot water (140 degrees F) can result in a severe burn that requires surgery.

According to Ameriburn.org, in 2019, more than 40% of homes have been found to have water temperature settings that are dangerously high. This shocking statistic is enough to make anyone double-check the settings on their water heater.

Mainly if you have children, safe water temperatures are incredibly important. Babies, toddlers, and elderly adults have a higher risk of more profound burn injuries because their skin layers are significantly thinner. So, what may only cause a minor burn for you could seriously harm the very young or the elderly.

How to Prevent and Care for Burns from Scalding Water

The easiest and most effective way to prevent burns from scalding water is to set your water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Here are a few other valuable tips to keep you and your family safe from scalds:

● Always check the water temperature (using a finger or hand) before getting into a shower or bath.

● Avoid turning any faucet to “hot” unless necessary.

● Consistently supervise children, mainly when they are near a water source.

If a scald burn does happen, proper treatment can help minimize discomfort and support healing. Contrary to popular belief, you do not want to directly apply ice or ice water to the burn. Instead, hold the skin under cool (not very cold) running water for 8-10 minutes, or use a cool, wet cloth to reduce the pain. After the area has cooled, apply a lotion with cocoa butter or aloe vera as an ingredient. Use a clean bandage to protect the site, and take a nonprescription pain reliever.

If pain persists for more than 2-3 days, contact a doctor.

Severe burns, including those larger than 3 inches in diameter or those that begin to swell rapidly, require immediate medical attention. If a child experiences a scald, contact a doctor for guidance.

Trust a Professional for Water Heater Maintenance, Repair, and Replacement

In many cases, contacting a plumbing professional is the best approach for dealing with your home or business’s water heater. It is not recommended that homeowners replace their water heaters independently, as many adjustments need to be made with each new water heater. At Mr. Rooter Phoenix, our plumbers can help pinpoint common issues, provide high-quality repairs, and even help you choose the best water heater for your budget, needs, and preferences.

We’re here for you when you need us: contact us for more information or a free estimate today!

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