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Tap water scald burns in children
  1. Kenneth W Feldman,
  2. Robert T Schaller,
  3. Janen A Feldman,
  4. Mollie McMillon
  1. Odessa Brown Children's Clinic and Burn Unit of the Children's Orthopedic Hospital and Medical Center and the Ambulatory Division, Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, USA


    Tap water scald burns account for 7% to 17% of all childhood scald burns that require hospitalization. Often the burns are severe and disabling. Toddlers and preschool children are the most frequent victims. In 45% of the injuries, the unsupervised victim or a peer turned on the tap water; in 28% the cause was abuse. Eighty per cent of the homes tested had unsafe bathtub water temperatures of 54°C (130°F) or greater, exposing the occupants to the risk of full thickness scalds with 30 second exposure to hot water. Such burns may be prevented passively by limiting household water temperatures to less than 52°C (125°F). New water heaters could be preset at this temperature and families could be taught to turn down the temperature on existing units.

    • burns
    • accidents
    • child abuse

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    • This is the 17th paper in a series of Injury Classics. Our goal is to reprint one or two such papers in each issue to introduce newcomers to these old, often quoted, and important contributions. As many are difficult to find, it should help all of us to have a copy at hand. Your suggestions about future articles are welcome. Write to the editor with details of your favourite, most quoted paper.

    • This paper first appeared in Pediatrics (1977;:–7) and is reproduced by permission.

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