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Burns. 2007 Mar;33(2):185-8. Epub 2006 Nov 22.

Properties of matter matter in assessment of scald injuries.

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Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, Hong Kong, China.


Gathering information on the thermal characteristics of the causative agent in scald injuries provides clues as to the likely depth of injury. We theorize that viscosity and thermal capacity may have important roles to play when we view scalds as contact burns due to a liquid. From a 4-year review of our scald patients, we found that scalds due to thick food/drinks such as congee (a porridge made from rice) were associated with a higher rate of surgery. We determined the rate of cooling of seven common food/drinks and found little difference between water, tea, coffee and noodles, other than the starting temperatures. However, the rate of cooling of congee was significantly slower indicating a greater thermal capacity. A "drip" model found that a skin substitute exposed to congee cooled significantly more slowly compared to other food/drinks, suggesting that its greater viscosity plays a role. This supports the theory that the viscosity of food/drink is important.

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