Better Safe Than Scalded

By Kindred Healthcare

The first full week in February is Burn Awareness Week. This year, the American Burn Association is focusing on the issue of scalds – a common burn injury – to raise awareness and increase prevention.

Kathleen Tsalopoulos, East Regional Wound Nurse with Kindred's Nursing Center Division, shared information regarding scald injuries and offered tips on prevention.

Scald injuries can affect people of all ages, but older adults and those with a disability are particularly vulnerable. Scalding burns are usually a result of spills, splashes, immersion or contact with hot liquids. Older adults have thinner skin, so hot liquids cause deeper wounds even with brief exposure. Additionally, their ability to feel heat may be reduced due to medical conditions or medications.

Because of poor microcirculation, heat is removed from burned tissue rather slowly and burns may mature over a few hours. A first-degree burn may involve deeper structures and become a second-degree burn – think of a sunburn that blisters the next day. Similarly, second-degree burns may evolve into third-degree burns.

Regardless of the type of burn, inflammation and fluid accumulation in and around the wound occur. The skin plays an important role in the body’s fluid and temperature regulation. If enough skin is injured, its ability to maintain that control may be lost. The skin also acts as a protective barrier against the bacteria and viruses that inhabit the outside of the body. A burn is a break in the skin and the risk of infection exists both at the injured site and potentially throughout the body.

Scalds can be prevented through increased awareness of scald hazards and by making simple environmental changes.

Water for bathing should be monitored. The American Burn Association recommends lowering the water heater thermostat to deliver water at a temperature not to exceed 120 degrees.

Fill the tub, turn off the water and test the temperature before getting in. Mix the water thoroughly and check the temperature by moving your elbow, wrist or hand with spread fingers through the water before allowing someone to get in.

Better Safe Than ScaldedCoffee and other hot beverages should be consumed at 155 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this temperature can result in a burn if the beverage comes in contact with the skin.

Hot beverages should not be left unattended. Use carafes or carriers with secure covers to reduce risk of accidental dispensing.

Discourage elderly or disabled loves ones from carrying cups of hot beverages without a lid while walking or in wheelchair.

Re-heating liquids in the microwave can not only increase the temperature of the beverage or food but can heat the dish to an unsafe temperature. Use an oven mitt to remove hot dishes from the microwave or better yet, wait for them to cool down before handling.

When serving hot food or liquids:
– Don’t overfill cups/bowls
– Place beverage/food away from edge of table (at least 10 inches) and near dominant hand
– Warn others that a hot liquid is being served
– Place beverage in field of vision
– Transfer hot beverages into serving container which will allow temperature to drop