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I like to take showers and baths hot enough to leave my skin pink when I come out. One of my friends has a much lower tolerance to hot water and has said that that soaking in hot water can damage the nerves. What I consider to be warmish is hot to her.

How hot does water need to be to damage the skin/nerves, temporarily or permanently? Does it vary significantly depending on the person?

Is there any real danger of accidentally having baths that are too hot?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 15 down vote accepted

This graph (PDF) shows how long it takes to scald (burn) someone's skin with water with time on the X axis and temperature on the Y axis. At 100°C scalding is instant. At 60°C it takes closer to five seconds. If you were being scalded you would know RIGHT AWAY. The University of Utah's burn center recommends that people with small children/elderly/people prone to seizures should turn down their water heaters to 50°C instead of the usual 70°C.

Nerve damage occurs with a third degree burn. A third degree burn involves the destruction of the epidermis and the dermis. The dermis contains hair follicles, nerves and other structures. At this point, the burn may not heal unless it receives medical attention. This type of burn also may requires skin grafts to heal properly.

What can happen when someone bathes (especially with soap) in water that is quite hot is that their skin can dry out. Hot water and soap can strip the skin of its natural protective oils. Dry, cracking skin can also be an entry point for germs.

Ultimately, assuming you aren't actually scalding yourself, the water temperature comes down to preference. Do just be aware, however, that you may need to use a moisturizer right after taking hot showers, especially in the winter.

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For the sake of us metric people, could someone provide the temperatures also as centigrade? –  Suma Aug 1 '11 at 6:06
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So you know, metric units are expected on this site (and certainly using Farenheit without even saying so will earn you down votes) –  Ebenezer Sklivvze Aug 1 '11 at 6:52
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So sorry! Didn't realize. I will keep that in mind for the future :) –  nalgenegirl Aug 1 '11 at 18:21
    
Thanks for the answer! :) Do you know if scalding water permanently damages nerves? –  Annan Aug 2 '11 at 21:36
    
@Annan I edited the answer to include the point at which nerves are damaged. A third degree burn will permanently damage nerves. Skin grafts are required for restoration of the dermis. –  nalgenegirl Aug 3 '11 at 2:29

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