Each year, the UC San Diego Health Regional Burn Center admits approximately 450 patients, from infants to adults, and treats hundreds more as outpatients. Scald burns comprise 35 percent of overall injuries admitted to burn centers in the United States. More than 60 percent involve children five years old and younger. These burns are typically a result of exposure to hot tap water or food and beverages heated on a stove or in a microwave. They are extremely painful and potentially life-threatening. During National Burn Awareness Week (the first week of February), Jeanne Lee, MD, director of the Burn Center, offers a variety of prevention tips for families:

  • Hot water will burn skin at temperatures much lower than boiling point (212°F/100°C). In fact, it only takes three seconds of exposure to 140°F/60°C water to cause a burn serious enough to require surgery. Set water heaters at 120°F/48°C or just below the medium setting. A safe bathing temperature is 100°F.
  • Don’t make hot coffee, tea or hot chocolate in a mug that a child normally uses. Consider using mugs with tight-fitting lids, such as travel mugs, when children are nearby.
  • Always use oven mitts or potholders to remove hot items from the stove or microwave. Use the back burners of the stove to prevent children from reaching up and touching hot pots and pans.
  • Lack of safe play areas for children can increase the risk of scald burns. Establish a “No Kids Zone” in the kitchen. Safe play areas where children can be supervised should be out of the traffic path between the stove and sink.
  • Supervision is the single most important factor in preventing tap water scalds. If you must leave the bathroom while bathing a child, take the child with you.
  • Did you leave your curling iron plugged in? Make sure to have a conversation with your children about never grabbing hair appliances that may still be hot after use, even when it is no longer plugged in. Always make sure that you teach your children to not grab objects that may be hot.
  • Glass doors on gas fireplaces can reach excessive temperatures. Serious burn injuries from touching the hot glass can occur in less than one second. Use safety gates, install screen barriers and supervise toddlers and young children around fireplaces.


Background: The multidisciplinary team at UC San Diego Health Regional Burn Center is committed to helping patients heal emotionally and physically from mild, severe and life-threatening burn injuries. With leading-edge treatments, advanced diagnostic and surgical techniques and a comprehensive team approach to burn care, the team is able to respond to the most complex medical issues.The UC San Diego Health Regional Burn Center is the only one in San Diego and Imperial Counties, and one of just 33 worldwide to be verified by the American College of Surgeons and American Burn Association as a pediatric and adult burn center.