The present work analyzes scald burns from hot beverages, such as coffee and tea, spilled on the lap, i.e., an incident that may occur in daily life. The Pennes bioheat equation is solved numerically for small spills wetting the clothing, i.e., the fabric prevents the spilled liquid from draining away. Temperatures are analyzed in the wetted fabric and the skin layers and the resulting skin injury is calculated based on the basal layer temperature. Parameters influencing burn severity, such as clothing thickness, liquid temperature, removal of fabric and thermal effects of post scald water cooling are analyzed. The fabric cools the water some but represents a threat since the entrapped water results in a prolonged heat supply. The liquid temperature turned out to be the most important injury parameter, where liquid temperature of about 80–85 °C seems to be a limit for developing superficial partial-thickness burns in the present minimum case, i.e., where the liquid just wets the fabric. Spilling water in excess of just wetting the fabric, more severe burns will develop at lower liquid temperatures due to the prolonged heat supply. Higher liquid temperatures will nearly instantly develop more severe burns. It is demonstrated that removal of the clothing within the first seconds after the spill may significantly reduce the scalding severity. The general advice is therefore to avoid excessive heating of beverages and, if the beverage is spilled, to quickly remove the wetted clothing. Prolonged tempered water cooling is advised to improve the healing processes.
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