Comprehensive method to predict and quantify scald burns from beverage spills

John P. Abraham, Brittany B. Nelson-Cheeseman, Ephraim Sparrow, John E. Wentz, John M. Gorman, Steven E. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


A comprehensive study was performed to quantify the risk of burns from hot beverage spills. The study was comprised of three parts. First, experiments were carried out to measure the cooling rates of beverages in a room-temperature environment by natural convection and thermal radiation. The experiments accounted for different beverage volumes, initial temperatures, cooling period between the time of service and the spill, the material which comprised the cup, the presence or absence of a cap and the presence or absence of an insulating corrugated paper sleeve. Among this list, the parameters which most influenced the temperature variation was the presence or absence of a cover or cap, the volume of the beverage and the duration of the cooling period. The second step was a series of experiments that provided temperatures at the surface of skin or skin surrogate after a spill. The experiments incorporated a single layer of cotton clothing and the exposure duration was 30 s. The outcomes of the experiments were used as input to a numerical model which calculated the temperature distribution and burn depth within tissue. Last was the implementation of the numerical model and a catalogue of burn predictions for various beverage volumes, beverage service temperatures, and durations between beverage service and spill. It is hoped that this catalogue can be used by both beverage industries and consumers to reduce the threat of burn injuries. It can also be used by treating medical professionals who can quickly estimate burn depths following a spill incident.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)900-910
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Hyperthermia
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 16 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioheat transfer
  • burns
  • hot beverages
  • scalds
  • thermal injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cancer Research


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