Hot Water Burns Like Fire – The Issue
Nearly 300 people a year are so badly burnt that they have to be admitted to an NHS specialist burns service with severe scalds from the tap water in their bath, sink or shower - two thirds of these are children. The young and elderly are especially vulnerable as their skin is thinner, so burns quicker, and they have less ability to remove themselves from the scalding water.
In addition to the 300 people admitted to specialist burns services each year with severe scalds from tap water in their bath, washbasin or shower - it is estimated that a further 1,600 are seen by UK Emergency Departments.
A common scenario is a parent filling a bath for a toddler
Its baththtime and a parent is filling the bath. As is common in the UK the hot tap is turned on first and then the temperature is adjusted by adding cold afterwards. Suddenly the doorbell rings, the phone goes or the parent is distracted by another child and leaves the bathroom for a few seconds. The child reaches in to grab his/her favourite toy and falls headfirst into the 60ºC uncontrolled hot water. The child will probably raise the alarm and the parent may have the child out of the water in a matter of seconds, but unfortunately even then it is far too late. Hot water at this temperature will result in virtually instantaneous full thickness burns to all parts of the body that it comes in contact with.
Other groups considered to be at high risk are elderly or disabled people. While children are normally scalded because they do not identify or understand the risk, the elderly and disabled are more likely to be injured or killed as a result of not being physically able to remove themselves from the scalding situation when they find themselves in danger.
A typical scenario is a carer or nurse filling a bath of hot water and leaving the person to get in by themselves; quite often the bather will sit on the side of the bath and swing their legs over and into the water.
At 60ºC an adult will suffer full thickness burns after less than six seconds of immersion, with an elderly person this time is likely to be even less due to the more sensitive nature and reduced thickness of their skin. Regardless of skin sensitivity, however, it is clear that anyone who is even marginally impeded in their movements is going to suffer a serious scald injury at such temperatures.
HOT WATER BURNS LIKE FIRE is a campaign to stop scalding by hot water from your taps and showers
by promoting the use of thermostatic mixing valves, taps and showers.
Sobering thoughts - the burns suffered by scald victims are every bit as painful and destructive as those suffered by victims
of fires or explosions.
For older people the rate of risk for severe accidents involving burns and scalds is lower than other age groups. However, older people are at the highest risk for fatal injuries from burns and scalds - four to five times greater than the population as a whole. Pre-existing conditions often contribute to their deaths.