The Dangers of Scalding Water – Be Safe!

February 16, 2011

Tap water scald injuries are the second most common cause of serious burn injuries in all age groups. Scalding is a second-degree burn to the skin or flesh caused by moist heat and is a much deeper burn than one from dry heat. Many of the scalding incidents are a result of household water heaters being set at temperatures above 120 degrees F. According to the US Department of Energy, a temperature of 120 degrees at the tap is adequate for most household chores with a minimal danger of scalding and maximal energy efficiency. Most incidents are preventable so keep your families safe with a few helpful tips.


  • More than 35,000 children, most of them 4 or younger, are treated each year in hospital emergency rooms for tap-water scald burns, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign.
  • The National Coalition to Prevent Childhood Injury, a group of 80 civic, health and professional groups based in Washington, DC, says scald burns account for about 100 deaths a year, most of them children under 5, or adults over 65.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that although most scald burns occur in the kitchen, the most severe scald burns are caused by water flowing into the tub or shower.

Ways to prevent hot water scalding incidents:  

  • Reduce water temperature. Children’s skin burns at lower temperatures and more deeply than that of older children and adults.
  • Set your water heater thermostat at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are not comfortable adjusting the water heater thermostat contact your plumber.
  • Test the bathwater with your wrist or elbow before placing your child in it.
  • Consider installing anti-scald devices on water faucets and showerheads that turn off the water if the temperature is too hot.
  • Passive devices, such as thermostatic mixing valves, can also prevent scald injuries from occurring. Contact your Plumber for more information regarding these devices.

Keep in mind that by lowering the temperature even a little can bring you big savings … from 3% to 5% if you adjust your temperatures from 130 degrees F down to 120 degrees F. Also if you are going on vacation, turn off the power to your water heater and save even more energy – and money!


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Last Updated: June 06, 2024