Today’s topic is preventing scald and burn injuries in children. Most accidents occur in the home, and scalds and burns to children almost always occur in the kitchen or bathroom of the home. For the most part, these are preventable injuries. Burns, especially scalds from hot water and, cooking liquids, are some of the most commonly occurring accidents to children. Babies and young children are most vulnerable because they’re small and have sensitive skin that requires greater protection than adult skin.
While minor burns (“first-degree” burns) can often be safely treated at home, more serious burns (second- and third-degree burns) require immediate medical care. Most parents are aware that the causes of burns range from scalds, to contact with flames or hot objects, chemical burns (from chemical spills of home cleaning items like bleach, drain cleaner, dishwasher detergent, etc.), to electrical burns from hot appliances or frayed electrical cords, to burned skin from over-exposure to sun.
Medical professionals caution parents that all burns need to be treated as soon as possible to lower the temperature of the burned area and minimize damage to the skin and underlying tissues (in the case of severe burns).
Loma Linda Children’s Hospital in Loma Linda, California, advises parents that toddlers are at greatest risk of scalds and burns as they begin to walk, climb, and reach, while children under age 5 are at greatest risk when fire strikes, as they may panic and hide in closets or under beds. Some children are needlessly burned because they think clothes protect them from flames. In children
ages 3 to 8, curiosity about matches and lighters is normal. But, sadly, more than one-third of the burns to these children are the result of playing with matches.
The following simple tips to prevent scalds and burns can make your home safer for you and your children.
To prevent scalds in the kitchen:
- Keep hot foods and drinks away from the edge of tables and counters. Do not put them on a tablecloth that small hands can tug.
- If you’re holding something hot, don’t hold your child at the same time.
- When you cook, keep your child away from the stove.
- When you cook, turn pot handles toward the back of the stove. If possible, use rear burners.
- Always watch for dangling appliance cords to fry pans, irons, and other heated appliances (hot plates, crock pots, etc.).
- When you pass a hot item, food or beverage, to another person, do not pass it over the head of a child.
To prevent scalds in the bathroom:
- Test the heat of water. Turn on the hot water at the tub faucet. Let it run for 3 to 5 minutes. Measure the temperature with a hot water gauge or mercury thermometer.
- For safe bathing, set the water heater’s thermostat to low, warm, or 120 degrees F. Wait a day. Test the water again. Repeat if necessary. Your clothes and dishes will get clean at this setting!
- Install anti-scald devices in shower and bathtub fixtures that stop water flow when the temperature exceeds 120 degrees F.
- Always check water temperature before placing your child in the tub. A child’s skin burns more easily than an adult’s. Test the water by placing a few drops on your wrist–if it’s hot for you, it’s too hot for your child.
- Supervise children when they are in the bathtub. Young children can turn the hot water on by themselves. Older children can accidentally scald a younger child.
- If you rent, ask your landlord if it’s possible to lower the water temperature or put an anti-scald device in your shower and bathtub fixtures.