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Home cooking, scald-free: Preventing scalds in your home
Feb 05, 2014
Many people warm up to home-cooked meals and hot beverages in winter months. During Burn Awareness Week (February 2-8), Grinnell Mutual wants you to enjoy those tasty meals and drinks without painful scalds.
Water or other liquids heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit can cause a third degree burn in as little as five seconds, according to a report from the American Burn Association.
"Always be careful when you’re cooking sauces, soups, or any kind of hot liquid. There’s always a danger," says Alan Clark, assistant vice president of Special Investigations at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company. "You have two or three things going on, you get distracted, and it catches up to you."
Kitchen time is family time
Preparing a home-cooked meal with children present may be a recipe for scalds, says Clark, but involving them in food preparations can be beneficial.
"Small children like to reach up and grab things off the counter or off the stove. Make sure you keep hot pans and dishes away from the edge and monitor their activities as well as your own. As your kids get older, teach them how to cook. Teach them safety around the kitchen. Let them do things while you supervise," said Clark. "You’ll find these children are less likely to have issues later because they grew up around it."
If young children are at home while you cook, keep them out of the traffic path between the stove, sink, and dinner table. Have a place where children can safely play while supervised. Keep young children in high chairs or a safe distance from countertops and stovetops.
Whether you are cooking on the stovetop, with a crockpot, or in the microwave, Grinnell Mutual recommends following these tips to prevent scalds in your kitchen and at your dinner table:
Keep your kitchen scald-free
- Stand by your pan. Never leave food unattended on the stove. "When you’re not paying attention, that’s when you can run into a problem," says Clark.
- Use the back burner. When young children are present, cook on back burners.
- Turn in your handles. Always keep pot handles turned away from the stove edge.
- Lift the lid away from you. When removing lids from hot foods, lift the cover or lid away from your face and arm to redirect steam that may have accumulated. "One of the biggest dangers in the kitchen is getting scalded by steam," says Clark. "You take the lid off of the pan and you get a release of hot vapors."
- Beware of a wet oven mitt. A hot pot or pan can heat a wet oven mitt quickly, causing scalds.
- Watch the cords. Any appliance cords should be coiled and away from the counter edge, too.
- Hot oils can splatter. "Always be cautious anytime you cook with hot oils so that you don’t get splatters because they can cause scalds," says Clark.
Microwaved foods can scald
- Open slowly. Steam can build inside a food container that has been in the microwave. For example, the steam trapped in a bag of microwave popcorn can be 180 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. Open containers slowly and away from your face.
- Be patient. Microwaved foods and beverages can heat unevenly, so stir your food or beverage and allow your microwaved food to cool before eating.
At the dinner table
- Establish a kid zone. Keep hot foods and liquids out of reach. Place hot items in the center of the table, at least 10 inches (about the length of one dinner plate) from the table’s edge. Use non-slip placemats and trivets instead of tablecloths.
- Don’t drink and carry. Never drink or carry hot liquids while carrying or holding a child. Your quick motions may cause you to spill on the child.
If you get a scald
If you receive a scald, follow these scald tips from the U.S. Fire Administration:
- Cool the scald. Treat a scald right away by putting it in cool water. Cool the scald for three to five minutes.
- Uncover the scald. Remove all clothing, diapers, jewelry and metal from the scalded area. These can hide underlying scalds and retain heat, which can increase skin damage.
- Recover the scald with a clean, dry cloth. Do not apply creams, ointments, sprays or other home remedies.
- For certain scalds, seek medical attention. If the scalded area is bigger than your fist or if you have any questions about how to treat it, seek medical attention right away. See your doctor as soon as possible if the scald does not heal in two to three days.
For more information about preventing scalds, visit Safe Kids Worldwide, the National Fire Protection Association, or the U.S. Fire Administration. Some information in this article is used with permission of the American Burn Association, with support of a grant from the U.S. Fire Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security, with funds appropriated by the U.S. Congress under the Assistance to Firefighters Act (Fire Prevention and Safety Grants).