Tea and coffee in hospitals and nursing homes – a preventable cause of burns

Dr Ed Riordan1, Dr  Pratik  Rastogi1, Ms Siobhan Connolly1, Dr Jeon Cha1

1Royal North Shore Hospital, Randwick North, Australia

Purpose: Although a substantial amount of literature exists on quantifying and reducing the incidence of tea and coffee related burns in household settings, little research has been carried out into their incidence in facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes (Burgess et al 2016).

Method: The NSW Statewide Burns Injury Service Database was used to identify scalds requiring attendance (inpatient or outpatient) at tertiary burns centres between 2005 and 2016.

Results: 15,387 scald burns were identified, with 5058 (32.8%) related to tea or coffee; 2124 involved beverage preparation (hot taps, urns, and teapots), and 2934 were due to spillage of the tea or coffee cup. 44 (1.5%) of these cup spillage burns occurred in care facilities, with 22 patients requiring inpatient stays, and 15 requiring skin grafts at a mean grafted TBSA of 2.75%.

Conclusion: A significant number of scalds are related to spills from hot tea or coffee cups. The proportion of these that occur in inpatient facilities is low (1.5%), but may be relatively easily preventable, as simple interventions such as enforcing a delay between pouring of the tea or coffee and its dispensing can be readily implemented. A 10 minute delay has been shown to be sufficient for coffee and tea with milk to cool to close to the optimal drinking temperature (based on scald risk and taste), and represents an identifiable figure that can be feasibly incorporated into beverage service protocols at hospitals and nursing homes (Brown and Diller 2007; Jamnadas-Khoda et al 2009).

Currently a resident at Royal North Shore Hospital, having previously worked at Wollongong Hospital, and completing a PhD with the University of Sydney


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