Your first cup of coffee in the morning, your soup of the day for lunch, and the sizzling steak for dinner all have one thing in common: they are all liquids. When heated to a specific temperature, liquids and very hot beverages can cause injuries and burns to you or your loved ones.
Below, our compassionate Los Angeles burn injury attorney, Michael Ehline, delves into hot liquid burns and scalds. In the end, he will include some bonus information to assist you in finding the best help for scald burns in L.A.
A Burn Caused by Liquid, like Coffee, Tea, Steam, or other Drink, is a Scald Burn
Many burns directly result from dry heat, such as a fire, but a burn from hot beverages, for example, is commonly referred to as a scald. According to the American Burn Association, more than half a million people receive scalding injuries from hot liquids in the country. Besides the consumption of hot liquids, workers near hot liquids at their workplaces (including factories, construction sites, hot water in kitchens, and more) are at a higher risk of severe burns and scalds due to inadequate safety gear and failure to stay at a safe distance from back burners, hot water, steam from cooking, etc.
Very Hot Beverages and Liquids Can Cause Severe Burns and Scalds
If you received scald burn injuries from hot liquids or from drinking hot beverages, you should seek the help of our hot liquid burn lawyers to help you handle the financial compensation process.
Hot Drinks and Esophageal Cancer: The Truth
Since the 1930s, there has been a theory going around that suggests scorching beverages burn the inner linings of the esophagus—constant burning results in the regeneration of cells. Still, during this process, normal cells can turn into cancerous cells, thus leading to esophageal cancer (very hot beverages are the primary culprit.).
Earlier studies conducted on animals suggested that hot liquids could damage the cells. However, the study results cannot apply to humans since the hot liquids administered to animals were at extremely high temperatures, something people may not consider.
In 2016, the World Health Organization conducted a study where they would monitor the results of the consumption of hot liquids by people in countries across Asia, Africa, and more. China also conducted a study where they tried to find out the link between hot drinks and esophageal cancer. These studies only showed an increased risk of esophageal cancer in subjects who were either alcoholics or smokers.
Is There a Link?
Today, no study suggests a direct link between hot drinks and esophageal cancer among healthy people. However, those who drink alcohol or smoke, or those with common risk factors for cancer such as obesity, are definitely at an increased risk of esophageal cancer. Now that we’ve established that hot drinks may or may not cause cancer directly, let’s explore the reality that hot beverages tend to cause severe burns to your skin.
Hot Beverages Can Burn Your Skin
It can take only five seconds or less for a hot drink to burn your skin if it is 140 °F or more. Most hot drinks, such as coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, are usually served between 160 and 180 °F, which is enough to burn your throat, tongue, and mouth.
Below the layer of skin are nerves that send signals to the brain to register pain. A skin burn from hot liquids requires immediate medical attention as it can damage the tissues, nerves, and even the muscles. Some hot liquid victims risk contracting bacterial infections from hot liquid burns since these burns can open the skin.
Injuries may vary in severity depending on the temperature of very hot beverages and the duration of exposure. Understanding how liquids can cause scald burns is essential so that the victim can immediately take the necessary steps to protect themselves.
Degree of Burns
There are three types of burns, and they are:
- First-degree burns
- Second-degree burns
- Third-degree burns and scalds.
A superficial burn, also known as a first-degree burn, is a minor burn that affects the epidermis or the skin’s first layer. This type of burn occurs when the hot liquid lightly splashes on the skin, and the contact between the skin and the hot liquid is brief. This type of burn usually happens when you’re boiling liquids or in an environment with hot liquids, such as a factory.
Some of the symptoms of a first-degree burn to help you identify your burn include immediate pain, change in skin color (pinkish or red), peeling of the skin as the healing process starts, and dehydrated skin.
Also known as a partial thickness burn, a second-degree burn is a serious burn injury as it affects the epidermis and slowly damages the dermis’s second layer. These burns occur when the boiling liquid remains on the skin for a considerable period.
If you’re not sure whether you have a first-degree burn or a second-degree burn, some of the symptoms of a second-degree burn to help you diagnose your injury include pain over a few weeks, wet skin, blisters, and a change in skin color (red, pink, or white under the blister.).
Depending on which part of the body the burn is on, it may take a couple of weeks to heal on its own. Typically, a second-degree burn heals in under three weeks, but the treatment may require a skin graft. These types of burns can leave unwanted scars that may remain for several years.
Third-degree burns, also known as full-thickness burns, can be life-threatening, leading to complications such as infections. This type of burn is the most dangerous as it ultimately damages all the skin layers. Prolonged exposure to boiling or hot liquids can deliver nasty third-degree burns, which can be fatal without immediate medical care.
Symptoms of a third-degree burn include no pain or very little pain, fever, weakness, completely damaged skin, change in skin color, and greyish or blackish skin.
Third-degree burns can cause infections requiring hospitalization, antibiotics, and, in some cases, even surgeries.
Relationship Between Temperatures and Time
The injuries’ severity depends on the liquid’s temperature, and the time the skin remains exposed to it.
Here is some information to help guide you on the relationship between the two variables that can lead to serious burns:
- 98 °F – Optimum temperature for bathing
- 118 °F – 5 minutes
- 124 °F – 3 minutes
- 140 °F – 5 seconds
- 155 °F – 1 second.
High-Risk Groups: Who Is More at Risk of Scalding?
Besides workers working in environments that can cause thermal injury, certain groups of people risk burning themselves more than others.
Due to their thinner skin, small children are more prone to burn injuries than adults, resulting in much deeper burns. Since a child’s body is much smaller when compared to a full-grown adult, the proportion of the body burned is considerable. For example, a cup of hot tea spilled on small children will affect a much larger area than the same cup of tea spilled on an adult’s body.
Small children also have fewer perceptions of danger and a lot of curiosity. They do not understand the repercussions of what may happen if they touch hot water, and they certainly do not possess the ability to escape a burning situation.
Older adults are like younger children because they, too, have thinner skin. They may also have medical conditions that may not register pain upon impact, thus causing an injury. Due to their body condition and old age, their bodies do not remove heat from burned tissue as quickly as adults, resulting in more profound and prolonged burns.
Older adults are also at an increased risk of burns as they are more prone to slips and falls. A fall in a bathtub with hot water or a slip while carrying hot drinks can result in serious injuries.
How Should You Treat a Burn or a Scald?
You may want to call emergency services to treat your burn wounds, but it will take a few minutes for them to reach your location. It is essential to administer immediate care to subdue the burn and stop it from spreading wider and more profoundly.
Here are some tips you should follow to treat your burns until the emergency services arrive:
- Remove the heat source and run the burned area under cool water for 20 minutes. A continuous flow of cool water can provide instant relief and stop the burn from spreading. You need to maintain body heat, so do not treat your burns with cold water or ice.
- Remove any clothing from the burned area to ensure enough room for swelling.
- Use a clean cloth to cover your burn, and keep the burned area above the heart level if possible.
Taking these measures can help prevent further damage from the burn and allow enough time for the paramedics to reach your location and provide medical care. It is essential to take proper care and precautions to prevent scald injuries.
Here are some ways you can prevent yourself or your loved ones from getting scalding burns:
Preventing Scalding Burn from Hot Liquid
The majority of us heat liquids or food at temperatures that are too high as it is usually done to kill any germs or bacteria that the food or liquid may harbor. When drinking hot beverages, letting them sit for a while to cool can prevent the risk of scalding burns. New moms who warm up the milk for their infant children should allow a few drops to touch their palms before feeding them to check if the milk isn’t too hot.
Besides letting scorching beverages sit to cool and checking your infant’s feed, here are a few other ways you can prevent scalding burns around your home and protect your household:
- Create a safe zone in the house for the children to play in. This “safe zone” could either be in the kitchen, where the children can observe from a distance what their parents are doing, or in any other part of their home. Ensure all the dangerous equipment, like the stove, is away from the safe zone, and don’t bring any hot food or hot drinks into it.
- When using the microwave, make sure that you’re heating your food at a low temperature as the microwave is on a high heat setting most of the time, resulting in the food heating unevenly. It may seem cold on the outside but scorching hot on the inside.
- While holding hot drinks, be careful by watching your step as it is common for people to trip on something, resulting in the hot drink running over you. If it’s too hot, it’s going to scald your skin. If you’re holding your child in your arms, make sure that you’re not carrying any hot drinks as young children, and elderly skin is sensitive to heat, and hot drinks can seriously injure these groups of people more than adults.
- When preparing a bath, mix cold water with hot water since there is no numerical temperature setting on a water heater.
- If you live with small children or older adults, install anti-scald devices across your home to protect them from receiving burns.
Always ensure safety equipment is around the house; for example, in the kitchen, you can purchase pots and pans with lids and handles that remain cool. Or perhaps, invest in a glove to protect you from the heat when moving hot pans with hot liquids in them.
Wear Safety Equipment Both at Home and Work When Necessary
In the workplace, safety gear is essential to prevent such burns. Your employer’s responsibility is to ensure a safe and conducive working environment for all workers. If you risk receiving injuries due to inadequate safety equipment, speaking to an attorney about it is essential.
Contact a Personal Injury Burn Attorney If You Suffered from Scald Burns
If you received burn injuries at work, a restaurant, or any other place that was not your fault, contact us at (213) 596-9642 for a free consultation with our legal experts, as you may be eligible for compensation.
Ehline Law is Here for You
You can even visit law offices across California for a free case review. Our attorneys will review your burn injury case and provide you with the possible legal options to help you recover compensation.