To protect people from scalding, the Federal Government has implemented regulations regarding the appropriate temperature delivered from the tap. The maximums vary slightly, depending on the regulator and who is accessing the hot water. In most cases, the top temperature is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. However, these top temperatures are lower for some populations. For example, the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standard (UFAS) limits the top temperature to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and the Guidelines for Construction and Equipment of Hospital and Medical Facilities sets a ceiling of 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Most state governments give direction on which standard should be followed; however, Kentucky does not currently have its own statute when it comes to the issue.
Getting the Temperature RightAccording to the American Burn Association Scald Injury Prevention Educator’s Guide, the most common regulation standard for the maximum temperature of water delivered by residential water heaters to the tap is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. When water is at this temperature, adult skin can be scalded in approximately five minutes. If the temperature is raised to 140 degrees, a burn can happen in just five seconds. With children, these time limits are lessened because their skin is thinner than an adult’s. If a child’s skin is scalded in the bathtub, they are in more danger because they have a limited ability to get themselves out of the water and because the burn is more likely to affect a larger proportion of their body than it would for an adult. Approximately 21,000 kids are treated each year for scald burns. Kids under four have the greatest risk. Young patients account for 65% of the burn-related injuries seen in hospitals.
Although most adults can handle a few minutes of 120 degree temperatures, children can’t; 100 degrees Fahrenheit is actually a safer temperature for youngsters. Anti-scald devices and guards are available at hardware stores and can be attached to a faucet or shower head to help keep water temperatures from getting too high. It is also recommended that caregivers test water temps using a meat or candy thermometer to provide an accurate water temperature reading.
Safety Inside the Water HeaterWhile scalding injuries need to be prevented once water is released from its source, the other issue with water temperature in apartments and other residences is ensuring that the water is hot enough while it is being stored before use. Inside the water heater, the water needs to be maintained at 124 degrees Fahrenheit, at a minimum, in order to assure that bacteria does not develop in the unit.
Having a water source too cool can allow the Legionnella bacteria to thrive, which can cause Legionnaire’s Disease, a severe type of pneumonia. Those who contract the disease normally do so from 2-10 days after they are exposed, and they may experience headaches, muscle aches, chills, a fever up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, confusion, cough, chest pain, nausea, and shortness of breath. Those who are smokers, are over 50, or have weakened immune systems may be more vulnerable to the disease.
Other Common Home Injuries with KidsWhile your home is your refuge away from the chaos of the world, complacency can be dangerous. There are many household hazards that can lead to serious injury. Children are especially vulnerable. Objects as seemingly innocent as those window coverings you carefully selected, the fabulous appliance that cleans your flatware, or the potted plant from your favorite aunt can actually pose threats to your kids.
If you have young children, consider getting down on their level and looking at your house through their perspective. See how easy it is for that TV to topple down? To be tempted to climb the unbalanced bookshelf? Touch the shiny, pointy objects sticking out of the dishwasher? How about the windows? Do they have blinds or shades that operate with cords that look fun to pull on? Getting tangled in such cords has resulted in at least 300 fatalities in the last 30 years as well as serious injuries such as quadriplegia or brain damage. Regardless of coverings, windows are a natural draw and one open just a few inches can result in a fatal fall. Screens are not designed to hold back the weight of a child. Instead, install window guards or window stops, open double-hung windows from the top rather than the bottom, move furniture away from windows, and keep windows locked whenever possible.
Televisions, bookshelves, dressers, and stoves all present tip-over hazards. As many as one child every two weeks dies when hit by or trapped beneath a falling TV, piece of furniture, or appliance. Many more are injured. These accidents commonly stem from children climbing onto the object, unaware of the danger. Some are reaching for something they want, so be careful where you place things that you think are out of their reach. Kids have been known to open oven doors and dresser drawers to make stairs. Others think that the TV screens are interactive and will try to touch them. Where possible, store heavy items on bottom shelves/drawers to help stabilize furniture. And use anti-tip brackets or safety straps to secure televisions, stoves, and furniture to the wall. Useful saftety tips:
- Add a soft border around fireplaces.
- Make sure all plants are nontoxic.
- Point all sharp utensils downward in the dishwasher.
- Close and latch the dishwasher when it’s not being used.
- Place lamps far back on tables.
- Secure power cords to the baseboard.
- Inspect used baby gear and toys for missing or broken parts.
- Consider having your home tested for lead paint.
- Keep devices with easily-opened battery compartments away from little fingers (button cell batteries are particularly dangerous if they leak or are swallowed).
- Do daily sweeps of the kitchen counter, coffee table, or wherever it is in your house where objects tend to collect, and don’t let small items accumulate (coins, pins, jewelry, bottle caps, pen tops, paper clips, rubber bands, etc.).