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Burn Risks

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Common burn injuries by age

The primary age groups at high risk for death from burn injury are the very young (under five years of age) and the older adult (over 65 years of age). Both groups may lack the ability to escape life-threatening situations and the ability to tolerate the physical stress of post-burn injury. People of any age with a physical or mental impairment are also at risk.

Infants, Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers

High incidence of scald injuries at home

  • 75% of all scald injuries to infants and toddlers could be prevented.
  • Most burn victims injured by hot liquids (water, grease, etc.) are children under three years of age.
  • Most likely areas of the house for injury to take place: kitchen, bathroom, bedroom.
RoomHazardPrevention Strategy
KitchenCooking food on stove topTurn pot handles inward so children can’t pull them down
Dangling cords on small appliancesReplace long cords with short ones. Keep appliances toward the back of counter tops. Keep cords coiled and away from the front of counters.
Unattended hot liquids/foodNever leave hot liquids or food unattended where it can be pulled down by a toddler or young child.
Handling hot liquids/foodChildren should not be allowed to pour or handle hot liquids or food.
Holding infants while drinking/pouring hot liquidsKeep children at a safe distance while pouring or drinking hot liquids – grabbing action starts at an early age.
Child underfoot during meal preparation timePlace child in high chair, crib, playpen or other secure location while preparing food. Rushing while handling hot liquids and food is dangerous with a toddler underfoot.
Serving hot foods with the child seated at the table.Seat a child at the dining table only after all the food has been served onto plates and his/her plate has set long enough to cool. Place plates with hot food for older family members out of the child’s reach.
Child left unattended in the room with food cookingNever leave young children unattended, especially in an area where food is being prepared.
Microwave cookingBe certain that foods and liquids are sufficiently cooled (inside and out) before giving them to a young child. Stir thoroughly before serving. NEVER heat baby bottles in the microwave.
Hot appliancesPrevent contact burns – keep hot appliances away from the child’s reach.
Storage above stoveNever store food above the stove. Your child may climb or reach over stove when it is on or still hot.
Baby walkersNever put your infant in a baby walker in the kitchen.
BathroomHot water (sink/tub/shower)

Dial down hot water thermostats to 120 degrees F or less (temperatures over 140 degrees F can cause serious burn injury in seconds!) Recommended temperature for a young child’s bath water is 90 – 102 degrees F.

Bath time is not play time and the bath area is not a play area. Do not leave a young child alone in the bathroom. If the telephone rings, let the answering machine pick up the call. If you don’t have an answering machine, the person will call back if it was important. If someone knocks on the door and there is no one else to answer, take the child with you.

When preparing a bath for your child, run cold water into the tub FIRST, and then add hot water to the desired temperature. Test bath water by the feel of your hand, or use a child’s waterproof thermometer, before placing the child in the tub. Face children away from the faucet in the tub to reduce the chance of them turning on the hot water.

Clearly mark the HOT and COLD water settings of single valve units (mixing valves) to avoid choosing the wrong setting.

Chemicals – cleansers, hair dyes, etc.Keep harmful chemicals in a safe place – out of the reach of young children.
Electrical grooming appliances

Don’t use electrical grooming appliances in the bathroom. If it is necessary to do so, stay away from the sink or the bath tub, especially if it has water in it. Buy appliances such as hair dryers, curling irons, shavers, etc., with built-in interruption devices that will disconnect power from the outlet if the appliance is accidentally dropped into water.

Always dry your hands before touching any electrical appliance. Never leave these devices plugged in if children are unattended.

BedroomLamps with dangling cordsKeep lamps away from baby’s crib where he/she might be able to pull it down and cause a fire.
VaporizersUse COOL-MIST vaporizers and keep appliance at a safe distance from the child. Avoid using heat-mist vaporizers.
Radiators and space heaters near bed and bathroomNEVER leave an infant (old enough to roll) on an adult bed/mattress close to radiators or space heaters. Make sure heaters are equipped with an automatic shut-off switch that will disconnect power if accidentally tilted or turned over. Don’t use a space heater in the bathroom. If you need heat, place the heater outside the door aiming it towards the area to be heated. Make sure the cord is placed so that it can’t be stepped on with wet feet. Keep heater away from flammable materials.

Never leave a child alone (especially during the crawling stage) in any room with electrical cords plugged into wall sockets. He/she might bite into the cords or suck on the end. This is the cause of the most common and serious electrical burn injury to toddlers. Use child guard safety covers on all unused electrical outlets to prevent children from poking things into sockets.

Children playing with fire - a major concern

The leading cause of fire deaths among young children is playing with matches and lighters. Playing with fire is the cause of three out of every ten preschool fire deaths. A lack of education about fire and fire safety (and sometimes more serious psychosocial/emotional or physical needs) are the most common problems with this age. Although fire-setting can be due to an innocent curiosity, fire-play and fire-setting is NEVER harmless and should be taken very seriously by adults.

For the very young child

Children as young as 18 months have started devastating fires. Remember the following:

  • Keep all lighters and matches out of the reach of young children.
  • Teach children that matches and lighters are tools for adults, not toys for children.
  • Instruct children to tell an adult if lighters and matches are lying about or if another child is playing with fire.
  • Tell children that you or another adult will teach them how to use matches properly when they are old enough.
  • Teach children (as young as three) the stop, drop and roll procedure and simple home fire escape behaviors (don’t hide in closets, crawl low under smoke, what to do if the smoke alarm sounds, never return to a burning building, etc.).
  • Child resistant lighters are available.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 04/07

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