Scalding burns and children: What you need to know               

Young children grow very quickly. It happens while we sleep, and a growth spurt can see a child sprout up to half of a centimeter in a single night. Changes in height and size can throw off a child’s coordination. Since their motor skills are in a constant state of adjustment, it increases the danger posed by your latte on the end table, or that pot of soup on the stove.

latte on the edge of a table

Why are burns worse for little children?

According to Seattle Children’s Hospital, little ones, especially those below the age of four, are at greater risk for scalding burns. This is because:

  • They have thinner skin.
  • Due to their small stature, burns cover a higher percentage of their bodies.
  • They have little or no understanding of environmental dangers.

What makes a burn a scalding burn?

Scalding burns can occur in an instant while cooking, pouring hot beverages, or even overheating bath water. Scalding, which is any burn caused by hot fluids, happens more often than you might think.

 Some statistics:

  • An overwhelming 85% majority of scald burns occur in the home.
  • Each day, over 300 children are seen in emergency rooms for burns and 2 children die from burn injuries.
  • About 35% of those admitted to burn centers in the U.S. are injured by scald burns.
  • More than 60% involve children 5 years old and younger, and spills are the most common cause of this injury.
  • Hot water will burn skin at temperatures much lower than boiling point (212°F/100°C). In fact, it only takes 3 seconds of exposure to 140°F/60°C water to cause a burn serious enough to require surgery.

child with a scalding burn, being treated by an adult

While any burn can be painful, a scald may cause:

  • Red or peeling skin
  • Blisters
  • Swelling
  • White or charred skin

Identifying burns

 While most scalding burns cause immediate, sharp pain, pain is not the only indicator of the seriousness of a burn. In fact, the most serious cases can cause nerve damage and deaden pain. Some factors affecting the degree of severity include:

  • Time of exposure
  • Amount of skin exposed
  • How quickly treatment is given

As with dry burns, scalding burns are categorized in three ways:

  • First-degree burns are superficial and relatively minor. They only damage the first layer of skin (the epidermis). Symptoms include immediate pain, pink or red skin, and peeling as the burn heals.
  • Second-degree burns damage the first and second layer of skin (the dermis). These burns are more serious. The pain may last for days or weeks, cause wet, watery-looking skin, and blisters. Sometimes skin grafts are required.
  • Third-degree burns, or full-thickness burns, are the most serious and penetrate all layers of the skin. This injury can cause serious damage, fever, and weakness. An incident of this magnitude may require hospitalization, surgery, grafting, and antibiotics.

Doctor treating a child with a scalding burn in the hospital

Treating a scalding burn

 If this type of injury happens to you or a loved one, move quickly to provide first aid. This reduces the risk of serious complications. Follow these steps from the Mayo Clinic when treating a boiling or hot water burn:

For major burns:

  • Call 911.
  • Move away from the burn source as quickly as possible.
  • Remove anything that would restrict the skin, such as jewelry, belts, clothing, etc. The affected area is likely to swell quickly.
  • Use a cool, moist bandage or a clean cloth to cover the area of the burn.
  • Watch for signs of shock: fainting, pale complexion, or shallow breathing.

For minor burns:

  • Hold the burned area under cool (not cold) running water. Or apply a cool, wet compress until the pain eases.
  • Remove rings or other tight items from the burned area before the skin swells.
  • Don’t break blisters, which protect against infection.
  • Once the burn is completely cooled, apply a lotion with aloe vera or a moisturizer.
  • Cover the burn with a sterile gauze bandage. Wrap it loosely to avoid putting pressure on injured skin.
  • If needed, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or acetaminophen.

Kid with a scalding burn recovering on a couch

Will my child’s burn scar last forever?

 While everyone’s number one priority is the health of a child after a burn – one with zero infections and no lingering pain, burn survivors (and their parents) can be understandably frustrated with the healing process. Many variables affect the severity and healing time for scars, such as:

  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Severity of the burn
  • Depth of the burn
  • Location of the burn

Doctors do note that less-severe burns that heal within 14 days generally produce no scarring. But more severe burns that take over 14 days put the patients at a higher risk of scarring. When skin heals from a burn, collagen fibers naturally lay down in an organized manner. But with severe burns, the collagen fibers, while still repairing the skin, lay down in a disorganized manner. This can leave the skin looking mottled and textured.

However, as the scars mature, and the children grow in size, the scar will naturally fade in color, become flatter, softer, and generally less sensitive.

hot soup on a stove

Preventing scalding

 Because children are at high risk of scalding, consider how to protect them based on their developmental stage. Also, consider these top tips from Safe Kids:

  • Teach children to stay at least three feet away from your cooking space.
  • Cook on the back burners of the stove and turn pot handles away from the edge.
  • Keep hot foods and drinks away from the edge of your counters and tables.
  • Teach older children how to cook safely. Demonstrate how to use oven mitts or potholders.
  • Before placing your child in the bath, check the water temperature on the inside of your wrist. The water should feel warm to the touch, not hot.
  • If your child is still being bottle-fed, test the heat of the il but squirting a small sample onto the side of your wrist

As you drink your morning coffee or heat up soup for dinner, be extra vigilant around your little ones. And if you or a loved one has been burned due to the negligence of another, let an experienced attorney guide you through the next steps. For a free consultation, call Allen & Allen today, at 866-388-1307.