Preventing burns and scalds from liquids

It only takes a tiny amount of hot liquid to cover a large part of your child's body and cause devastating injuries.

Hot bath water

Hot bath water is the most common cause of fatal and severe scalds to children.

Your child’s skin needs cooler water than your own. Water that may feel barely warm to you could be painfully hot for a child.

  1. Run cold water first, then warm water.
  2. If your bath has a single tap with a hot and cold feed, make sure you run the cold water again. This is to cool the taps so that they won’t burn your baby.
  3. Test the water with your elbow or bath thermometer. The temperature should be warm, not hot.
  4. Mix it well so there are no hot patches. Do this before putting your child in the bath.

Never put your baby in the bath when the water is still running. The water temperature can change quickly.


Bath temperature

If you are using a bath thermometer, the temperature should be:

  • about 36 degrees Celsius for newborns
  • 37 to 38 degrees Celsius for babies and children

Never leave your child alone in the bath

An adult should always be there when a baby or a child is in the bath or near water. Never ask an older child to look after them.

Always drain the bath afterwards.


Bathing your baby

Hot water from taps

Set your water heater to a temperature less than maximum of 50 degrees Celsius.

Water at 60 degrees Celsius causes a scald within 3 seconds. But water at 49 degrees Celsius takes about 10 minutes to cause a serious scald.

If you cannot change the water heater’s thermostat, ask your plumber about installing thermostatic mixing valves (TMV). These reduce the water temperature before it comes out of the tap.

Hot water bottles

Do not use hot water bottles in children’s beds. They could leak. Your child might tamper with the bottle and try to open it. Burns can also happen slowly if you leave a hot water bottle on one part of your body for more than 15 minutes.

Hot drinks

Keep hot drinks like tea, coffee and soup out of your child’s reach. It takes very little liquid to injure a child’s face and upper body.

Hot drinks can seriously scald your child up to 15 minutes after being poured. This includes hot drinks with milk added.

Making hot drinks

Never hold your child while:

  • making hot drinks
  • drinking them

Keep cups and mugs out of reach

Keep hot drinks out of your baby’s reach or grasp. Do not pass hot drinks over a baby or young child’s head in case it spills on them.

Think about using a travel cup with a secure lid or a broad-based mug that will not spill easily.

Keep cups and mugs with hot liquids away from the edges of tables and other surfaces.


Do not use tablecloths. Your child may pull at them, causing hot items to fall on them. Table mats and place mats are safer. But keep them out of your child's reach.

Cafes and restaurants

Be very mindful of what is going on around you when out in restaurants and cafes. Supervise your child at all times. Do not allow staff to serve dishes over your child’s head.

Be aware of added risks if there are tablecloths. Your child may pull on them.

Heated milk bottles

If you are bottle feeding, make sure bottle contents are lukewarm and not hot.

Check the temperature by shaking the bottle and placing a drop of liquid on the inside of your wrist.

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Page last reviewed: 28 March 2019
Next review due: 28 March 2022