What Is Scalding?

Scalding is a type of burn injury caused by hot liquids or steam coming into contact with the skin. It occurs when the skin comes into contact with a temperature higher than its tolerance level, leading to tissue damage.

Severity Spectrum

Scalds can range from minor irritations to severe injuries that require immediate medical attention.

Common Causes of Scalding

  1. Hot Liquids: The most common cause is contact with hot water, oil, or beverages.
  2. Steam: Exposure to steam from boiling water or other sources.
  3. Hot Objects: Touching hot surfaces or objects, such as heated cooking utensils or equipment.

Identifying Symptoms of Scalding

Redness and Swelling

The affected area often becomes red, swollen, and painful shortly after exposure to hot liquid or steam.


The person will likely experience pain at the site of the burn. The person will most likely complain of the pain being severe. 

Blisters and Skin Peeling

In more severe cases, the skin may blister or even peel away, exposing the sensitive layers beneath.

First Aid Measures for Scalding

Immediate Cooling

Quickly but gently cool the affected area with cool (not cold) running water for about 10-20 minutes. This helps reduce the depth and severity of the burn. Do not use ice or very cold water as it can cause further tissue damage.

Avoid Ice and Ointments

Ice can cause further damage to the skin, and certain creams or ointments can trap heat, exacerbating the injury.

When to Seek Professional Help

Third-Degree Burns

If the scald results in white or charred skin, seek immediate medical assistance. For large or severe burns, burns to sensitive areas (face, hands, feet, genitals), or if the person shows signs of shock, seek professional medical help immediately.

Facial and Joint Involvement

Burns affecting sensitive or critical areas like the face or joints should always be evaluated by medical professionals.

Child-Proofing the Home

Keep hot liquids out of reach of children and use caution when cooking or pouring hot drinks.

Safety Protocols at Work

Workers in at-risk industries should adhere strictly to safety protocols, including the use of protective clothing.

Workplace Responsibility

Employers have a duty to provide a safe environment, and failing to do so can result in consequences.

Community Programs

Some organizations offer first aid courses that cover how to treat burns and scalds.

Online Resources

Websites, blogs, and social media can be valuable tools for spreading awareness about the prevention and treatment of scald injuries.

The Scalding Issue in Context

Global Impact

Scalding is a global problem affecting both developed and developing countries, particularly where safety measures are lax.

Public Health Concern

Due to its frequent occurrence and potential for long-term damage, scalding remains an important public health issue.

Understanding what scalding is, how it occurs, and what to do if you or someone else is scalded can significantly mitigate the impact of this common but often overlooked injury. While prevention is always better than cure, knowing the appropriate first aid steps can be crucial in minimizing damage and speeding up recovery. Remember, while initial first aid is crucial, professional medical attention may be necessary, especially for more severe scalds. It's important to treat burns promptly to minimize complications and promote proper healing.  


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