Burns: Prevention

Follow these guidelines to protect your child from common burns.

  • Never drink anything hot (such as coffee, tea, or cocoa) when you are holding a baby. The baby will reach for it, spill it, and probably get burned.
  • Try to use the back burners of a stove and keep panhandles turned toward the back of the stove.
  • After your child can walk, keep hot liquids and appliances (such as a pan of boiling water, a coffee pot, a curling iron, or an iron) away from the edge of a table, counter, or stove. A burn from a crockpot usually causes scarring because the contents are sticky and very hot.
  • Do not allow children to use the microwave without supervision.
  • Lower your hot-water heater setting to 120°F (49°C) or the “low” setting. Water heated at higher settings can cause burns in 2 or 3 seconds. You can test the temperature of your hot water by using a candy or meat thermometer.
  • Always test the temperature of bath water before your child gets into the tub. Supervise young children in the bathtub. Don’t let a young child touch the faucet handles. He or she may turn on the hot water and be scalded.
  • Use cool humidifiers, not hot steam vaporizers. A vaporizer can cause severe burns if a child overturns it or puts his face too close to it.
  • Supervise children around fires, stoves, and heaters of any kind.
  • Use flame-resistant sleepwear.
  • Give up smoking, or at least carefully dispose of used cigarettes. Cigarettes are the most common cause of fires in homes.
  • Keep matches and cigarette lighters away from children. Even a 2-year-old child can ignite a lighter by turning it upside down and pushing it across the floor.
  • Check electrical plugs and cords to see if they are frayed. Do not overload electrical outlets.
  • Install smoke detectors in your home on every floor. Check them monthly for proper functioning. More people die from smoke inhalation than from burns. Smoke alarms detect smoke long before your nose can.
  • Teach your children not to hide if a fire occurs in the house. Teach them to go outside. Rehearse and have a fire drill.
  • Teach children what to do if their clothes catch on fire. Stop, drop, roll, and shout for help. If they get burned, they should cool the burns with cool water, NOT ice.
  • Before you place a child less than 1 year old in a car seat, check the seat’s temperature. Hot straps or buckles can cause second-degree burns. Whenever you park in direct sunlight, cover the car seat with a towel or sheet.
  • Before you let a toddler walk barefoot on a deck or driveway, check how hot it is. Young children tend to freeze on a hot surface and can get serious burns of the feet.
  • Avoid fireworks, or allow older children to use them only with close adult supervision. In addition to burns, fireworks (especially bottle rockets) cause 300 cases of blindness per year.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-06-07
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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