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It takes less than a second for a child to be severely scalded by water that’s too hot. You can avoid scalds and bath mishaps by adjusting the temperature of your hot water system and following a few safety tips.

Did you knowQuestion mark symbol

If your skin flushes when you put your arm in the water, the water is too hot for your child.

 

What you  need to know

Lots of scalds happen in the bathroom when:

  • a child is placed in a dangerously hot bath
  • hot water is added once the child is already in the water, and he puts a hand or foot under the running hot water
  • water in the bath hasn’t been swirled, so there are hot and cold areas
  • children turn on the taps themselves.

Bath temperature for children is best between 37°C and 38°C (36°C for a newborn). Any cooler than 37°C isn’t recommended, because it can lower your child’s normal body temperature.

A child can be severely scalded in under a second when the water temperature is around 65°C, which is a common temperature setting for hot taps in many Australian homes. Setting a maximum of 50°C is much safer – at this temperature, it takes five minutes to severely scald a child.

Tips for safe water temperature

Here are some easy ideas for preventing scalds in the bath:
  • Turn down the thermostat on your hot water system to 50°C, a low-risk temperature for hot water burns. If you’re not sure how to do this, a plumber or electrician can help.
  • Install a device that lets you regulate the temperature of the hot water. These are available from hardware stores and can be installed without a plumber.
  • Consider child-resistant taps or tap guards in the bath.

Different hot water systems
Gas hot water systems without a specific temperature can usually be turned down by setting the thermostat between low and medium. Wait a day before you check the water temperature again. Call your heater manufacturer, local gas supplier or gasfitter for more information.

Electric hot-water systems can be adjusted. Contact the manufacturer, a qualified tradesperson or an electrician for more information.

Solar or slow-combustion hot water systems can’t be adjusted. Contact the manufacturer for more information.

Plumbers can install various devices to keep water at a safe temperature. You might like to consider putting in a single-lever mixer tap with a lock that prevents the hot water being turned on fully, or a flow-reduction device that reduces flow if the water gets hotter than the set temperature. Other options include a tempering valve which sets the water to a maximum of 42°C or 43°C, or a thermostatic mixing valve that fixes the temperature of the hot water.
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  • Last Updated 08-04-2011
  • Last Reviewed 26-03-2012
  • Cassell, E., Clapperton, A., & Ashby, K. (2004). Unintentional burns and scalds in vulnerable populations: The very young and the very old, Victoria July 2001 to June 2003. Hazard, 57(Autumn), 1-17.