Is Steam Hotter Than Boiling Water

Is steam hotter than boiling water? Which kind of a burn is worse: a burn from steam, or a burn from boiling water? You'll want to explain these basic physics and safety concepts to your children as you teach them about steam and water.

Steam Can Be Hotter
The simple answer is that steam is hotter than boiling water. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and yet steam can be as hot as 700 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason why steam is actually hotter than boiling water is due to the fact that water boils, and then becomes a vapor at the base temperature of 212 degrees. Water does not turn to steam at a temperature lower than 212 degrees.

Which Burn Is Worse?
Burns from steam can be very painful and very dangerous, but there are various factors that can affect how hot steam may feel when you come in contact with it. Pressurized steam can get up to 700 degrees or hotter, and when pressurized steam is released, it can cause a very serious type of burn. However, steam cools rather quickly because the vapor is not very dense, so a steam burn can be mitigated with cold water or cool temperatures.

In the kitchen or the bathroom, steam generally won't cause burns at all, because the vapors are loose and quickly cool to room temperature. Steam that comes from a radiator can cause burns because it's under greater pressure and takes longer to cool.

Boiling water is much denser than steam. If you come into contact with boiling water, it will quickly saturate your clothing and will penetrate deeper into your skin and the underlying tissue. A burn from boiling water may continue burning and will be more challenging to cool. It may penetrate deeply and burn the delicate tissues under the skin, causing a more serious burn than a comparable steam burn.

Teach your children to respect the dangers of boiling water and steam, especially when cooking with a pressure cooker. Insist that your children wear hot mitts or use hot pads when straining pots of boiling water containing noodles or vegetables, and teach them to keep out of the way of the steam. Your child's skin is more delicate and sensitive than the skin on an adult, so your child will be more vulnerable to burns from steam or hot water. Make sure you have a scald guard or set your water heating tank to a temperature that will not allow a child to be scalded while taking a shower or turning on hot water from the sink.

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