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Tap Water and Scald Burns (part III)

One of the most common causes of burn injuries is scald injury. Hot water scalds is a common cause of scald injury in which a short exposure time can result in severe burns depending on the water temperature. Most scald burns happen in the home from exposure to hot water in the sink, showers or bathtubs. Scald burns can also happen at restaurants and other places. Scald burns can happen to anyone, the severity depends on the temperature of the liquid and the duration of exposure.
Clinical features of scald burns:
Clinical features of scald burns depend on the severity of burn whether it’s a first,second or third degree burn. Clinical features may include:

  • Redness of the skin
  • Pain (may be absent in third degree burns as the nerves responsible for sensation may be destroyed)
  • Swelling of the affected area
  • Blisters (may develop in second degree burns)
  • Peeling if the skin in the affected area
  • White, stiff, waxy or charred skin (may happen in third degree burns)


  • Avoid panicking and remove the victim from the source of burn as soon as possible.
  • Cool the burned area immediately under running cool water for 10-30 minutes. Never use ice, any greasy substance or cream as this may lead to more damage
  • Seek medical assistanace
  • Keep the victim as comfortable as possible
  • Remove any watch, jewelry or clothing from the affected area; don’t try to remove anything that is stuck to the burned area as this may lead to more damage
  • Cover the burned area with clean, non fluffy material to keep it clean and protect it from infection. Avoid breaking the blisters and avoid using adhesive dressings
  • Treat associated symptoms like shock

When to seek medical assistance:

  • When the victim is over 60 years of age or under 5 years of age
  • When the victim is pregnant
  • When there is pre-existing conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, compromised immune system
  • When the burn is large, deep, or if blistering is present
  • When the burn is located on the face, neck, hands, feet, joints, limbs, genital area, buttocks or around the upper body
  • When there is signs of infection which may include increase redness, increase pain, increase swelling, fever, foul odor discharge, pus, non healing wound after several weeks or there is new unexplained symptoms
  • When the victim has diffeculty breathing or has inhaled smoke or fumes

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

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