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Scalded thumb, two days after a radiator explosion.

Scalding (from the Latin word calidus, meaning hot[1]) is a form of burning from heated fluids such as boiling water or steam. Most scalds result from exposure to high-temperature water such as tap water in baths and showers or cooking water boiled for the preparation of foods. Another common cause of scalds is spilled hot drinks, such as coffee. Scalds are generally more common in children, especially from the accidental spilling of hot liquids. Most scalds are considered first or second degree burns, but third degree burns can result, especially with prolonged contact. Scalds are typically far more severe when caused by steam, because it has absorbed a great amount of latent heat, and is therefore far more effective at heating objects.


Applying first aid for scalds is the same as for burns. First, the site of the injury should be removed from the source of heat, to prevent further scalding. If the burn is at least second degree, remove any jewelry or clothing from the site, unless it is already stuck to the skin. Cool the scald for about 20 minutes with cool or lukewarm water, such as tap water from a tap.[2] Ice should be avoided, as it can do further damage to area around the injury,[3] as should butter, toothpaste, and specialized creams. With second-degree burns, blisters will form, but should never be popped, as it only increases chances of infection. With third-degree burns, it is best to wrap the injury very loosely to keep it clean, and seek expert medical attention.

Use in food production[edit]

The carcasses of poultry and pigs are commonly scalded after slaughter to facilitate the removal of feathers and hair. Methods including immersion in tanks of hot water or spraying with steam. The scalding may either be hard or soft in which the temperature or duration is varied. A hard scald of 58°C (136.4°F) for 2.5 minutes will remove the epidermis of poultry and this is commonly used for carcasses that will be frozen so that their appearance is white and attractive.[4]


  1. ^ Mosby’s Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Dictionary, Fourth Edition, Mosby-Year Book Inc., 1994, p. 1395
  2. ^ Burns and scalds - NHS Choices, Treating Burns and Scalds.
  3. ^ The Dos and Don'ts of Burns, What's the best way to treat a burn?
  4. ^ "Scalding", Microbial ecology of food commodities, 2005, p. 113, ISBN 978-0-306-48675-3