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Food and Beverage Related Scalds
The Grossman Burn Center
Cooking-related scalds are common in all age groups, but are especially serious for young children, older adults and people with disabilities. Children get burned when they upset cups of coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate or other hot beverages, grab dangling appliance cords or pot handles, or pull on hanging tablecloths. Adults receive cooking related scalds by way of hot liquid spills or when attempting to move containers of hot liquids.

Although these burns may cover a smaller surface area than tap water scalds, they are often deeper because of the higher temperature and are likely to result in the need for surgical skin grafting. These injuries usually occur in areas where food is prepared or served.

The American Burn Association recommends the following tips to make your home safer and help prevent scalds from food and beverages.


  • Establish a safe area, out of the traffic path between the stove and sink, where children can safely play but still be supervised.
  • Place young children in high chairs or play yards a safe distance from counter or stove tops, hot liquids, hot surfaces or other cooking hazards while preparing or serving food.
  • Child walkers are extremely dangerous and should never be allowed in kitchens or bathrooms. Infants in child walkers have increased mobility and height and can more easily come in contact with dangling cords and pot handles.
  • Provide safe toys for children, not pots, pans and cooking utensils, to occupy a child's attention. Young children are unable to distinguish between a "safe" or "play" pan that they perceive as a toy and may reach for a pan on the stove.
  • Cook on back burners when young children are present.
  • Keep all pot handles turned back, away from the stove edge. All appliance cords need to be kept coiled and away from counter edges. Curious children may reach up and grab handles or cords. Cords may also become caught in cabinet doors causing hot food and liquids to spill onto you or others. The grease in deep fat fryers and cookers can reach temperatures higher than 400 degrees and cause serious burns in less than 1 second.
  • When removing lids from hot foods, remember that steam may have accumulated. Lift the cover or lid away from your face and arm.
  • If young children want to help with meal preparation, give them something cool to mix in a location away from the cooking. Do not allow a child to stand on a chair or sit on the counter next to the stove.
  • Children should not be allowed to use cooking appliances until they are tall enough to reach cooking surfaces safely. As children get older and taller and assume more cooking responsibilities, teach them safe cooking practices.
  • Check all handles on appliances and cooking utensils to guarantee they are secure.
  • Consider the weight of pots and pans. Attempt to move only those items that you can easily handle.
  • Wear short sleeve or tight-fitting clothing while cooking.
  • Always use oven mitts or potholders when moving pots of hot liquid or food.
  • Keep pressure cookers in good repair and follow manufacturer's instructions.
  • Avoid using area rugs in cooking areas, especially near the stove. If area rugs are used, ensure they have non-slip backing to prevent falls and scalds.

  • During mealtime, place hot items in the center of the table, at least 10 inches from the table edge.
  • Use non-slip placemats instead of tablecloths if toddlers are present - young children may use the tablecloth to pull themselves up causing hot food to spill down onto them. Tablecloths can also become tangled in crutches, walkers or wheelchairs, causing hot liquids to spill.


  • Never drink or carry hot liquids while holding or carrying a child. Quick motions (reaching or grabbing) may cause the hot liquid to spill, burning the child or adult.
  • Do not make hot coffee, tea or hot chocolate in a mug that a child normally uses. Consider using mugs with tight-fitting lids, like those used for travel, when children are present.
  • Do not place hot liquids on low coffee or end tables that a young child can reach.


  • If it is necessary to move hot liquids while using a wheelchair, place a large, sturdy tray with a solid lip in your lap to decrease the risk of lap burns.
  • A tray in the lap may also prevent burns from hot foods or beverages if someone is unsteady or shaky.
  • Use a serving cart to transfer food from the stove to the table top instead of carrying it.
  • Consider alternate cooking equipment (slow cookers, toaster ovens or microwaves) placed on lower counters or tables if the stove or oven is too high to safely reach. Be aware this may create a burn hazard if young children are present.

Deep frying 500 degrees F 260 degrees C
Baking 400 degrees F 204 degrees C
Frying 300 degrees F 148 degrees C
Boiling 212 degrees F 100 degrees C
Electric Crock Pot 200 degrees F 93 degrees C
Hot Beverages 160-180 degrees F 71-82 degrees C

It takes less than one second for a third degree burn to occur from these cooking methods. Continuous and adequate supervision of children is the single most important factor in preventing scald burns. Be sure all caregivers are aware of burn safety practices.

From the American Burn Association Scald Prevention Campaign 2000

See also:

1. Burn prevention tips for babysitters
2. Tap water scalds
3. Microwave scald prevention
4. Other causes of scald - prevention and pointers

Special gratitude given to:
The Grossman Burn Center

for providing this information!
The Grossman Burn Center
4929 Van Nuys Boulevard
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

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