The home, the bathroom, the taps, and hot water”: The contextual characteristics of tap water scalds in Australia and New Zealand

Miss Hana  Menezes, Miss Yvonne Singer, Mr Lincoln Tracey, Miss Heather  Cleland, Tracey  Perret, Dr Fiona Wood, Dr Lara  Harvey


Scalds from hot tap water can have devastating consequences and lifelong impact on

survivors. The aims of this study were to (i) describe the frequency, demographic

profile, injury event characteristics, and in-hospital outcomes for people with tap water

scalds admitted to Australian and New Zealand burn centres; and (ii) determine

whether there was variation in the frequency and epidemiological characteristics of tap

water scalds between jurisdictions.


Data were extracted from the Burns Registry of Australia and New Zealand for people

with tap water scalds admitted to Australian or New Zealand burn centres between

January 1 2010 and December 31 2018. Demographic, injury severity and event

characteristics, surgical intervention, and in-hospital outcomes were investigated.


There were 650 people with tap water scalds admitted to Australian and New Zealand

burn centres during the study period. Australians with tap water scalds (median [IQR]

29 [1-69] years) were older than New Zealanders (2 [1-36] years). Most tap water

scalds occurred in the home, and 92% of these occurred in the bathroom. More than

55% of injuries occurred due to the accidental alteration of water temperature at the tap

fixture. Two thirds of patients underwent a surgical wound procedure. The overall

mortality rate was 3.7%, and the median hospital length of stay was 8.8 days.


Tap water scalds remain a public health problem in Australia and New Zealand. Our

research highlights where gaps in current heated water regulations in residential

homes perpetuate risks of tap water scalds, particularly in high-risk groups at the

extremes of age. Extending current heated water regulations to include all Australia

and New Zealand homes is required urgently, in conjunction with design safety

improvements, and ongoing education of key stakeholders


Hana presents on behalf of Yvonne Singer and the authorship group

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