Domestic Hot Water Scalds

How Hot Is Your Water?

Successful passage to legislation of Petition PE786 – The Domestic Hot Water Scalds Campaign


tmv parliament

Medical professionals count bath water scalds as among the worst injuries that a child can suffer.They cause severe facial and bodily scarring which can require years of painful skin grafts. A scald over more than 20% of the body – not uncommon if a small child falls into a bath of hot water – has the same impact as being hit by a bus.

Bath water is the most common cause of severe scalds. When a toddler falls into a bath of hot water, it can take just one second for them to suffer a third degree burn covering much of their small body. They may endure painful operations for many years to come. [source: CAPT ]

The British Burn Association (BBA) calculates that serious ‘Category A’ bath water scalds require treatment in a specialist burns unit, at a cost of £750 a day. Very serious ‘Category B’ scalds are likely to require treatment in a burns centre intensive care unit (ICU), at a cost of £2,500 a day.

In addition to the BBA figures used in this article, the Department of Communities and Local Government suggests that costs may be even higher. They calculate the cost of a ‘normal’ bed day for a burns victim at £1,345, equivalent to the cost of General Level 2 intensive care nursing. They give the cost of a hospital bed day in an ICU with Level 3 care as £3,303.

Young children are most at risk from hot water scalds because their skin is far thinner and more vulnerable than adults are.  As a result they sustain scalds quicker and at low temperatures and often to a greater depth.  The degree of scalding depends on the temperature, volume of hot water and the length of time the child’s body is exposed to it.  It only takes a second for a severe scald to occur.  Children not only suffer physical scarring, but may also be emotionally scarred.

The child’s perspective: Darren’s story [child from the SBCC]

By the age of 17, Darren Ferguson had undergone 59 major operations, numerous minor operations and laser surgery to treat the bath water scald he suffered as a young child. He says: “I can’t disguise the fact that I have been injured or recently undergone surgery. This is a fact of life for me. The constant staring – by kids and by grown-ups who should know better – makes life difficult for me.”

The pain and anxiety associated with repeated surgical procedures has had a knock-on effect on Darren’s education. “When I was a youngster, and I was due to undergo an operation, I found it difficult to concentrate on school work before the op. When I am in pre-op, I am always anxious because I know that – however skilful my surgeons are – I will always be in pain when I wake up. That is guaranteed. And when I go to sleep each night, I know that I will be in pain when I awake.”

Surgeons call bath water scalds ‘life-changing injuries’ and Darren’s experience confirms this view. “My physical injuries are plain for all to see but I have others that cannot be seen. I was robbed of my childhood because I had to grow up and face things that none of my friends had to face.”

The aim of the SBCC campaign is to reduce the incidence and severity of burn and scalds amoung children and the objectives are:

  • To create an awareness of the high incidence and sverity of burns and scalds by children in Scotland.
  • Encourage all sections of Scottish communities to become aware of the dangerous potential and effects of incidents involving hot water in the home.
  • To promote the message “Hot water burns like fire” to all sections of the Scottish communities.
  • To encourage legislative changes to the current inadequate regulations and safety standards by proactive participation with all interested parties and the Scottish Executive.

As of 1st May 2006: Scottish building legislation requires house builders, developers and building contractors to install an anti-scald Thermostatic Mixing Valve [TMV], a TMV mixes hot and cold water to the pre-set temperature before it emerges from the tap, on all hot water bath systems and set to deliver a maximum water temperature of 48 degree celsius.

Petition 786