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Scalding: Prevent Your Child From a Kitchen Burn

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Scalding: Prevent Your Child From a Kitchen Burn

Feb 03, 2023

There’s nothing more devastating than seeing your child suffer a painful, life-changing scalding burn injury. Most parents think it will never happen to their child. That’s what Taylor Vowles thought. Hear his story about the day his son got second-degree scald burns over 8% of his body. Listen and learn from his experience so that you can better prevent burn injuries from happening to your child.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: Burn injuries are painful and can affect the person for the rest of their life. There's nothing more devastating than seeing your child with that kind of injury. Today we're going to find out what a parent whose child sustained a burn injury, we're going to find out their story and what he learned from the experience. That's coming up next on The Scope.

You know the pot of boiling water is kind of the quintessential burn hazard. That's one that everybody knows. But what about a hot drink or the hot water in the bathtub, or even chicken noodle soup which, believe it or not, can be really bad? And for the most part, burn injuries don't happen due to out-and-out negligence. It's just a matter of the right set of circumstances all coming together, kind of the perfect storm.

Hopefully, the result of this conversation is you will think about things differently and be able to recognize those circumstances when they arise in your house. We're with Taylor Vowles, and Taylor's son sustained a burn injury not too long ago. First of all, I think a lot of people think this will never happen to us.

The Burn Injury Experience of a Parent

Taylor: Yeah, of course. Scot, I think you nailed it. I volunteered for the Boy Scouts of America for 20 years and you go over these first aid merit badge and other things and you think, "Wow, I've never had to face that situation." And you really don't think of it as a parent at all. It's not at the top of your mind.

Interviewer: Yeah. So tell me the story of your son. What kind of burn did he get?

Taylor: He got a second-degree burn over 8% of his body, mainly on his leg. Initially, we didn't think it looked like a second-degree burn but it we found out later how incredible painful it was.

Interviewer: Yeah. I think a lot of people kind of make that mistake. I think they take a look at that burn, this is what I've heard anyway from the burn center here, and they think, "Oh, it's not that bad. I don't need to contact anybody." They always recommend if you have a burn injury give them a call. So what did you do at that point? Well, let's back up. How did it happen?

Taylor: He was on rollerblades. It was his birthday a few weeks before it happened and he got rollerblades and it being cold outside he didn't have time to rollerblade much outside. So he's wearing his rollerblades in the house despite, we kind of have a family rule for him not to do it. He was rollerblading around in the house and he just learned, a 7-year-old, this is like the first cooking thing they learn but he just learned to make a hot water ramen in the microwave. So he started making ramen in the microwave and he got it out and he was on his roller blades and all the water just came right down in his leg and the back of his rear, essentially.

Interviewer: I've heard that that's a burn danger not a lot of people are aware of, those ramen noodles, because the severity of burn are two things. It's temperature and time, and those noodles stick to your skin and increase the amount of time. Is that what happened with him?

Taylor: Yeah, I think so. And what also contributed to it is he had his roller blades on, so when the water came, the water rolled down his leg and it kind of settled at the top where the roller blade boot met his calf.

Interviewer: Oh, so it stayed there longer.

Taylor: So it even put a more severe line where that happened, but it got all over his leg. I mean, it was horrible.

Interviewer: Yeah. So then that happened, what happened after that point?

When to Contact a Burn Center

Taylor: Yeah. We didn't think it was that big of a deal. In fact, when we initially saw it he wasn't in too much pain. But I thought it best to take him to the instant care just to get it checked out anyway, and right when we got there they didn't even admit us. They just took one look at it and said, "You've got to get up to the burn center up the University of Utah. This is bad."

Interviewer: Yeah. They say that if that happens you can actually call the burn center directly which is something I'm sure you've learned since your experience. So you go to the burn center, what happened at that point?

Taylor: So they cleaned off the wound eventually of dead skin, skin that had seared off. And then they dressed it with clean dressings. And that was probably, of the whole process that's the least painful of the process because I think, at least my son, he was still in shock, he was handling it all very well. But later down the road when you have to go do the re-dressings, that's when it got really sketchy. I mean, the hardest part about the whole experience, really, is that redressing.

I mean, you have a kid who goes up there to get his burns redressed and he's a tough kid, right? He hasn't cried up to this point with the injury but then after, when he goes to get his burns redressed he literally has tears starting to come out of his eyes and then he's starting to shake with pain. The severity of pain is so bad he starts to shake for hours.

And then hours after than all your pain receptors are exposed, the new skin and because your pain receptors are exposed to air that's coming around you, the pain is just excruciating. That whole day, my wife said it was the worst day of her life. She cried for him. He cried and she said it just didn't stop for hours, and he's a tough little kid. The pain is really excruciating.

Interviewer: And this is all from a burn that at first glance didn't look like it was that big of a deal.

Taylor: Yeah, exactly.

Interviewer: Which I think is a good testimony that you should take all burns . . .

Taylor: Very seriously. And it's like the whole sunburn adage. You get a sunburn, it doesn't really hurt after, but the day after, within 24 hours you're singing a different tune.

Interviewer: Is there going to be any sort of long-term?

Taylor: The nice thing is the second-degree burn on him, at least we've been told, you can still see it heavily now but there shouldn't be any long-term consequences.

Interviewer: But you just don't know.

Taylor: You don't know.

Interviewer: Some children, they get their hands burned, for example. They don't quite have full functionality for the rest of their life.

Taylor: It's a concern. I wonder, too. He tans up really easy. That's a part of his leg, too, where you go out swimming. I just wonder how it's going to affect him. I mean, he's 7 years old. He's got the next 50 years of his skin which is the largest living organism in your body.

Lessons Learned as a Parent

Interviewer: Yeah. What did you learn from this experience? What's your takeaway?

Taylor: For me it's just being vigilant with your kids, common sense type stuff. As parents, you don't think it matters. Maybe your kids think you're too strict and I don't know if every parent's experience it but a lot of parents hear their kids say, "I hate you," or "That's a dumb rule," or "You're so dumb."

Interviewer: Yeah, like wearing rollerblades in the house.

Taylor: Yeah, like wearing rollerblades in the house.

Interviewer: That's stupid.

Taylor: I'm being proactive. I mean, we probably should have said, "Can we help you with that? Can we help you get that hot dish out of that microwave?" Just being more aware of your surroundings because it happens in a second and you really can't prepare for it that well unless you're being vigilant.

Interviewer: Yeah. So it sounds like you see things a little differently now. When you go around the house do you see potential burn dangers?

Taylor: Yeah, burn dangers, sharp corners, everything. I've thought about burns before and I turned down our water heater a long time ago because I never wanted that to happen. I didn't want the hot water burns but I never thought of it with cooking.

Interviewer: Yeah. And especially microwaves. I don't think people think of that. There again, it come back to the quintessential burn dangers, that pot of boiling water. You're supposed to turn the handle in but there's a lot of other things as well. What one message would you communicate to a parent listening right now based on your experience?

Taylor: Well, watching the excruciating pain that my son had to go through and my wife who took him up when they had to redress the burn, it's not worth it. If you can do all you can to safeguard your kids and just watching them and helping them, it's kind of a tragedy, it happened so fast. It could have been a lot worst.

Interviewer: Yeah. I mean, you hate to kind of say that but the leg is probably one of the better places it could have landed.

Taylor: Yeah, exactly. And it landed on the outside of his leg. If it were to have landed on the inside of his leg it would have even been worse.

Interviewer: Yeah. Well, Taylor, thank you very much for sharing your experience. I'm sure it's difficult for you but hopefully if we could prevent one burn injury because somebody maybe notices now the set of circumstances arising or realizes how fast it happened, hopefully it was all worthwhile.

Taylor: Thanks, Scot.


updated: February 3, 2023
originally published: February 4, 2015