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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 get a safe bath temperature and avoid scalds in the bathroom by reducing the temperature of the water coming out of your bathroom taps and by following a few safety tips.

Baby bathing

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

 

Bath temperature for babies and children: 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 a 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 babies and 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 temperature of water coming out of your taps is around 65°C. When the water coming out of your taps is at a maximum of 50°C, it’s much safer. At this temperature, it takes five minutes to severely scald a child.

Tips for safe bath temperature

Here are some easy ideas for preventing scalds in the bath:
  • Ensure that the water coming out of your taps is at a maximum of 50°C. This is a low-risk temperature for hot water burns. You’ll need a plumber to install a valve or thermostatic mixing valve at your water heater or on the hot water supply piping to your bathroom. 
  • Install anti-scald devices on taps and shower outlets. These are available from hardware and safety product stores.
  • Consider child-resistant taps or tap guards in the bath.
  • Turn on the cold water first, then the hot. When turning the water off, turn the hot water on first.
It’s important to remember that 50°C isn’t a bathing temperature. You still need to mix cold water with the hot water coming out of your taps to get the right bath temperature for babies and children. 

Hot water systems and bath temperature

Many hot water systems can be fitted with an appropriate temperature control. Call your heater manufacturer, local gas supplier, plumber or gasfitter for more information.

Continuous-flow hot water heaters or ones with electronic temperature controls can be set to deliver hot water at a safe temperature.

Water heaters with an uncontrolled energy source, such as solar or slow-combustion hot water systems, can’t be adjusted. Contact the manufacturer for more information.

Heated water needs to be stored at above 60°C to prevent the formation of Legionella bacteria. This is why it’s good to have a temperature control device fitted to lower the temperature of the water coming out of your taps.
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  • Last Updated 11-08-2014
  • Last Reviewed 11-08-2014
  • 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.

    Kendrick, D., Stewart, J., Smith, S., Coupland, C., Hopkins, N., Groom, L., Towner, E., Hayes, M., Gibson, D., Ryan, J., O’Donnell, G., Radford, D., Phillips, C., & Murphy, R. (2011). Randomised controlled trial of thermostatic mixer valves in reducing bath hot tap water temperature in families with young children in social housing. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 96(3), 232-239. 

    Phillips, C.J., Humphreys, I., Kendrick, D., Stewart, J., Hayes, M., Nish, L., Stone, D., Coupland, C., & Towner, E. (2011). Preventing bath water scalds: A cost-effectiveness analysis of introducing bath thermostatic mixer valves in social housing. Injury Prevention, 17(4), 238-243.