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Burns Resulting from Scalding Hot Tap Water

You use the tap a hundred times a day, so you wouldn’t normally think that burns from hot tap water would be much of a concern. However, the number of burns and deaths from hot tap water are shocking. In the United States, 3800 injuries and 34 deaths occur each year in the home due to scalding tap water. The majority of these accidents involve the elderly and children under the age of five. In addition, 35,000 children are treated in emergency rooms for scalding injuries. Amazingly, 42% of scald burns involve more than 10% of a child's total body surface area and most likely involve the trunk, arms and legs.

How does this happen?

There are many ways that people can be burned with tap water. The most common methods are as follows:

• Children are left unattended in the bathtub.
• Children and the elderly are placed in bath water that is too hot.
• Children are in the bathtub when another child turns on the hot water.
• Children and the elderly fall into the bathtub.
• The sad fact is that these burns are very severe, not just a minor burn that goes away after a few hours. In fact, explains that the average bathtub scald burn covers 12% of the body surface with a full thickness, third degree burn.

Why does this happen?

The most common reason that the water is too hot is because homeowners turn up their hot water heater thermostat to increase the availability of hot water. These people instead should have purchased a larger hot water heater to have more hot water available. The factory setting on new residential water heaters is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the highest setting considered to be safe; higher temperatures can cause severe scalding. The table here demonstrates the time it takes to receive a severe burn.