Scalds and scalding risks: what you need to know

Hot drinks are the major cause of scalds. A freshly poured hot drink can burn a child instantly.

Other common causes of scalding include boiling water, hot tap water and hot baths, as well as hot food, soups and sauces. Hot water can scald up to half an hour after it has been boiled.

Children under two years are most at risk of scalding from hot liquids in kettles, teapots, saucepans and cups.

The safe bath temperature for children is between 37°C and 38°C. Grown-ups tend to have baths in water between 41°C and 42°C.

Do you know how to treat a scald or burn? Our scalds and burns first aid article and illustrated guide to scalds and burns first aid take you through the steps.

Preventing scalds in the bathroom

The best way to prevent scalds in the bathroom is to have hot water delivered to the bathroom basin, bath and shower taps at a maximum of 50°C. By law all new homes must have water systems set at this temperature.

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.

If your hot water system was installed before 5 August 1998, talk to a licensed plumber about installing a device to reduce the temperature of the hot water coming out of your bathroom taps.

Here are more tips to reduce scalding risks in your bathroom:

  • Always run cold water first.
  • Test the bath water before putting a child in.
  • Never leave a small child in the care of an older child in the bathroom.
  • Never leave your child alone in the bathroom.
  • Keep small children within arm’s reach when they’re in the bath.
  • Take your child with you if you have to answer the door or the telephone.
  • Keep the bathroom door closed if the room isn’t being used.

Each year hot tap water causes serious scalds to many young children around Australia. More than 90% of these scalds occur in the bathroom. At 60°C it takes only one second to cause a full thickness burn. At 50°C it takes five minutes. Read more about safe bath temperature and bath safety.

Preventing scalds in kitchen and dining areas

These safety precautions will help protect your child from scalding in cooking and dining areas.

General tips

  • Have hot water delivered to the kitchen tap at a maximum of 50°C to prevent serious scalds.
  • Teach your child about the dangers of hot things.

Equipment and appliances

  • Keep kettles, teapots and hot drinks at the back of the bench or centre of the table so your child can’t reach them.
  • Make sure kettle cords don’t hang down within reach of your child. Use appliances with short cords so your child can’t use the cord to pull the appliance closer.


  • Use the back burners on the stove. Turn pan handles towards the back of the stove. Install a stove guard.
  • Carry plates to the pans on the stove, rather than carrying pans with hot liquids across the kitchen to the plates.
  • Don’t cook while holding or breastfeeding a baby or child. Try to plan ahead for cooking – for example, cook while your child is asleep or in a playpen or highchair.
  • Test the temperature of soups, stews and other liquid dishes before serving them. Stir microwaved foods to even out any hot or cold spots, and test the temperature before serving.
  • Anchor free-standing stoves to the wall or floor by installing an anti-tip device. These devices stop stoves from tipping over and spilling hot liquids and foods.

Eating and drinking

  • Put your baby in a playpen or highchair when you’re drinking something hot. Don’t have hot drinks when holding or breastfeeding a baby or child.
  • Use spill-proof mugs with wide bases and narrow rims. This reduces the risk of scalds – but it doesn’t get rid of the risk altogether.
  • Eat and drink hot food and drinks at the table to reduce the risk of spilling.
  • Use placemats instead of a tablecloth to help stop hot food and drinks spilling on your child. Children sometimes tug on tablecloths, which brings everything down on top of them.

The best way to prevent scalds is to keep your children’s play area away from your kitchen. Also keep hot food and liquids away from children.