Children at risk for accidental burns from hot tap water

Tex Med. 1994 Nov;90(11):54-8.


The American Academy of Pediatrics identifies young children at risk for accidental hot tap water (HTW) burns and recommends that HTW temperatures be set no higher than 49 degrees C (120 degrees F). Studies show that a temperature of 52 degrees C (125 degrees F) can cause a full-thickness skin burn in 2 minutes and a temperature of 54 degrees C (130 degrees F) can result in a full-thickness skin burn in 30 seconds. We sought to identify the risk for HTW injury and the knowledge about safety limits at our military installation. Sixty family housing units were selected at random for measurement of HTW temperature by both an electronic thermometer and a mechanical thermometer. Fifty-three (88.3%) and 44 (73.3%) units had temperatures greater than 52 degrees C (125 degrees F) and 54 degrees C (130 degrees F), respectively. We found temperatures that were unsafe at all heater settings. Most parents with children younger than 6 years (51%) were unaware of the danger of HTW to their children. We concluded that children living on our military post were at high risk for serious accidental HTW burns. Moreover, existing qualitative settings are not reliable indicators of safe temperatures. We recommend that health-care providers inform parents about the dangers of HTW burns to children and advise setting maximum HTW temperatures to the 49 degrees C (120 degrees F) recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Home / prevention & control*
  • Burns / etiology
  • Burns / prevention & control*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Texas
  • Water Supply* / legislation & jurisprudence