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Hot tap water burns

How hot is the tap water in your home?

When most of us think about burns, we think "fire".

However, hot liquids cause more burns than fire.

Scald burns are painful injuries from hot liquids or steam. The treatment is agonizing and there can be life-long scarring. The tragedy of most hot water burns is that they can easily be prevented by lowering the thermostat on your hot water heater to a safe setting and following simple precautions.

What is a safe temperature?
  • The temperature of hot water heaters in most Canadian homes is pre-set to 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • The water from your hot water tap should be 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Water hotter than this can cause severe burns to a child's skin in less than one second.
  • Seniors, people who can't escape the hot water quickly and people who can't feel the heat are also at risk.
How can I find out the temperature of my hot tap water?
  • Turn on the hot water tap.
  • Let it run for two minutes.
  • Fill a cup with hot water.
  • Place a thermometer that can show high temperatures, such as a meat or candy thermometer, in the cup.
  • Wait 30 seconds.
  • Look at the temperature reading on the thermometer.
  • If it is higher than 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit), you need to lower your water temperature.
  • If you have used a lot of hot water in the past hour, wait two hours before you do this test.
  • If you have any questions about testing your hot water, contact the
    Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
How can I lower the temperature of my hot water?
  • Find the thermostat dial on the outside of your hot water heater.
    • If the dial has numbers on it, turn it down to 49 degrees Celsius or 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • If the dial has words, such as 'Hot', 'Warm', or 'Vacation', turn it to the 'Warm' setting.
  • If you cannot easily see or adjust the thermostat, call a licensed plumber.
  • Once you have lowered the temperature, wait 24 hours, and then test the water again.
What can I do if I live in an apartment or rental unit?
  • Speak to your property manager or landlord about lowering the hot water temperature to 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Use anti-scald devices that fit on sink spouts, bathtub spouts and showerheads, if the temperature of the hot water in your building cannot be lowered.
  • For more information on where to buy these devices, contact the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority .
Are there any people who should not lower their hot water temperature?

People who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or extremely weak immune systems should check with their doctor before lowering their hot water temperature. This includes:

  • people with HIV/AIDS
  • people with cancer
  • transplant and other patients taking immuno-suppressive drugs
  • people with genetically weakened immune systems
What special care should I take when bathing children?
  • Keep your child out of the bathtub while you are filling the tub.
  • Run cold water into the tub first.
  • Then run warm - not hot - water until you reach a comfortable temperature. This will prevent a scald burn if your child falls into the tub while it is being filled.
  • Mix the water with your hand to get rid of hot spots.
  • Use your elbow to check the temperature before you place your child in the tub.
  • If the water feels hot, it is too hot for your child.
  • Always finish by filling the tub with cold water to prevent your child from being burned by the hot bathtub spout.
  • Face your child away from the water taps and keep him/her closer to the other end of the tub (away from the taps).
  • Never leave your young child in the bathtub with an older child who may be able to turn on the hot water tap.
  • Stay in the bathroom when your child is in the bathtub. If you must leave to answer the door or phone, take your child with you, wrapped in a towel.
  • Drain the bathtub immediately after use.
  • Use extreme caution if bathing your child in the sink. Many sinks have single lever taps that are easy for small children to turn on.
How do I treat a scald?
  • Place the part of the body that is scalded (skin may be red and swollen) in cold water, or cover it with cold wet cloths until the pain stops (after about 15 minutes).
  • If redness, pain, or blistering lasts more than 30 minutes, go to the emergency department.
  • Do not apply cream, ointment, butter, oil or ice.
Where can I get more information on preventing scalds?
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority logo Manitoba Government logo
Last updated: March 29, 2017