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What You Need to Know About Burn Prevention

Hot water

Scalding burns are the most common ones in younger children, the Burn Institute says. These burns often occur when a toddler knocks over a coffee cup, grabs the handle of a pot of boiling water on the stove, or is exposed to hot water.

These are steps you can take to prevent hot water burns:

  • Set the temperature on your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahreinheit (49 degrees Celsius).

  • Test bath water before putting your child in the tub.

  • Don’t carry hot liquids or foods near your child.

  • When cooking on the stovetop, use the back burners.

  • Never leave a child unattended in the kitchen if you have something cooking on the stove.

  • Don’t use tablecloths. A child can easily grab one and pull it, causing dishes to come tumbling down.

  • Use a cool-water humidifier or vaporizer instead of products that emit hot steam.

Hot elements

Another common cause of burns are hot or flammable items found around the home.

Follow these tips to prevent burns from hot objects:

  • Keep your child away from hot stoves, heaters, and smaller appliances, such as curling irons or hair straighteners.

  • Don’t leave matches or lighters where children can find them.

  • Never leave candles burning unattended. Blow them out when you leave the room.

  • Don’t use portable heaters around young children.

  • Leave fireworks to the professionals; don’t allow your children to play with them.

  • Install fire guards around open fires or electric or gas heaters.

  • Keep children away from outdoor grills as they heat up, are being used, or are cooling down. Extinguish embers and briquettes with water.

  • Use covers on electrical outlets to prevent electrical burns, and keep electrical cords out of reach.

  • Install smoke detectors.

Hot pads

Heating devices, such as heating pads, microwavable hot packs, and hot water bottles, can cause burns. 

Here's how to use these devices safely:

  • Inspect it before each use.

  • Read and follow directions.

  • Use a protective cover.

  • Place the pad or pack on top of the person.

  • Don’t use for longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

  • Don’t use such devices on someone who’s sleeping or unconscious, an infant, or someone with diabetes who has poor skin circulation.

Other burn safety tips

Here are other suggestions for burn safety from the American Academy of Family Physicians:

  • Figure out an evacuation plan for your home in case of fire. Rehearse the plan with everyone in your family. Determine a meeting place outside once everyone has left the house.

  • If you have a fireplace, have your chimney and fireplace cleaned once a year by a professional.

  • Keep a fire extinguisher on hand for small fires. Know how to use it.

  • In the car, check your child's car seat in warm weather to make sure it's not too hot for your child. Seat belt straps and buckles can cause second-degree burns on small children. To help prevent burns, cover the seat with a towel if you park in the sun.