Trying To Get Tots Out Of Hot Water

Posted: May 10, 1990

It takes just three seconds under a faucet pouring out 140-degree water for a child to suffer third-degree burns. Just a turn of the bathtub faucet while mom or dad steps out of the room.

In 1988, 37,000 children under age 14 - nearly half of them under 5 - were treated in hospital emergency rooms across the country for burns from hot liquid, food or tap water.

"Most parents have little understanding of just how dangerous hot liquid burns are," said Elizabeth Blunt, director of emergency and trauma nursing at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Permanent disfigurement and even death can result from such a burn."

Yesterday, the Safe Kids Coalition of Southeastern Pennsylvania announced a pilot program to install anti-scald devices in 200 homes in West Philadelphia. The devices screw into kitchen and bathroom faucets.

The coalition is lobbying for legislation requiring new homes to be equipped with anti-scald faucets.

The device, which sells for $13.95, automatically shuts off water that is above 120 degrees. New faucets equipped with anti-scald mechanisms cost $19.95 to $44.90.

A small price, points out Capt. John Hild of the Fire Department, when you consider the horror stories:

* A 14-month old girl is scalded when she attempts to give herself a bath while her mother steps out of the room. She is found screaming in the sink and is hospitalized 21 days.

* An 18-month old boy taking a bath turns on the hot water while his parent is out of the room. He suffers third-degree burns to 35 percent of his body below the waist and spends 46 days in the hospital.

* A 3-year-old girl falls into a tub of hot water while she is left unattended by her father. She spends 54 days in the hospital.

Hild of the Fire Department pointed out that poor children, children in single-parent homes and children in large families were especially vulnerable.

"Severe tap-water scald burns are often seen in children living in housing projects," he said. "The urban poor often live in large multifamily apartment buildings where the temperature of hot tap water has been recorded as high as 180 degrees."

He urged parents to keep the temperature of their water heaters no hotter than 130 degrees.

comments powered by Disqus