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Burns: Hot Water Safety

The leading cause of deaths and injuries to children at home is accidents. Hot water burns can put a child in the hospital or even cause death. The burns happen most often in the bathroom and tend to be more severe because a larger portion of the body is burned.

Children ages 4 and younger are at the greatest risk for death from a burn. They may get badly burned because they are not able to get out of water is that is too hot. Here are some tips:

  • When using tap water, always turn on the cold water first, and then add hot water. When you turn the water off, turn the hot water off first. Teach your child to do the same.
  • Always test the water before your child gets into the tub or shower.
  • Don't let young children to touch faucet handles during a bath.
  • Make sure all faucets are properly labeled “HOT” or “COLD.”
  • Don’t use a hot steam vaporizer. It can cause steam burns. Use a cool mist vaporizer instead.
  • Never leave a child alone in the bathroom for any reason. They could get burned by hot water or drown.
  • Set the thermostat on your water heater on low or no higher than 120°F (49°C) or lower. A child can be scalded in 2 to 3 seconds in water that is only 5 degrees warmer than this.
  • If you cannot control the temperature of the water heater (because you live in an apartment, for example), you can install antiscald devices on faucets and showerheads. The device will sense the water temperature and keep it from getting over 120°F (49°C).

Here are some common questions and answers about hot water heater settings.

If I turn the hot water heater setting down, will the dishes in the dishwasher and the clothes in the washing machine still get clean?

Yes. Soap works well in water with a temperature of 120°F (49°C).

Will my baby get more colds if the hot water isn't very hot?

No. Hot water has nothing to do with getting colds.

Will I save money on utility bills by turning down the temperature setting?

Yes. On the average, for every 10°F (6°C) that you turn the temperature down, you will save 4% on the water-heating portion of your utility bill.

I don't know where the thermostat of my hot water heater is, and I don't know how to set the temperature. Who can help?

For electric water heaters, call your local utility company to adjust the thermostat. Some companies offer this service at no charge.

Gas water heater thermostats differ and it’s best to call your local gas company for instructions.

If you live in an apartment or condo, contact the building manager.

After changing the thermostat setting, you can check the hot water temperature by holding a candy or meat thermometer under the faucet.

You can get more information from:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.4 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-06-30
Last reviewed: 2012-03-23
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©2013 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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