Burns are injuries to the skin caused by fire or a dry heat source, such as hot metal. Scalds are similar injuries caused by a hot liquid or by steam. The skin may peel and there may be blisters or swelling as well as intense pain. Where large areas of skin are affected, the injuries can be life-threatening.

Recent examples of burns/scalds in Hertfordshire over the last 12 months include:

  • A number of burns/scalds from a hot drink (tea/coffee) which required treatment by a paramedic/nurse or doctor

Hot water or unprotected hot surfaces can be dangerous for residents that are elderly, those with reduced mental capacity or mobility, those with sensory impairments or those who cannot react appropriately or quickly enough to prevent injury.

Most residents would react quickly if they have had a scald or burn but this is not always the case. Some residents may be confused or suffer from sensory or cognitive impairments which prevent them from recognising the dangers of hot surfaces, hot water or feeling pain. Others may be unable to feel when surfaces are hot until the burn is significant.

Risk assessments

Key to the prevention of injury from scalds and burns is risk assessment – key questions to consider

  • Does the resident have an impaired sensitivity to temperature?
  • Does the resident have an impairment that they cannot recognise hot surface temperatures or hot water?
  • Where beakers are used beaker lids should be removed and the drink kept in the kitchen to cool down, the liquid temperature measured and for this to be at an acceptable threshold before giving it to the resident.
  • Have any potential trapping risks near heaters or hot pipes, e.g. bed rails, furniture

Appropriate control measures should be introduced wherever a risk is identified. Risk assessments should be recorded, and the resident supported where risk is identified, through their care plan, and kept under review.

Where a burn or scald occurs – ensure advice and guidance is sought from your paramedic/nurse or GP support services.

Useful information