Teach children early that if they are touched by flames:
and if they see a fire, call for help.
Each year, about 21,000 children are treated for scald burns, and younger children are particularly at risk. Most scalds happen in the home and are caused by hot food or beverages or hot tap water. Youngsters have thinner skin than adults, so something that might cause a minor burn to an adult might cause a much more serious burn to a child.
Common sense and proper supervision go a long way to preventing scalds. Follow these tips:
- In the kitchen. Create a no-kids zone around the stove and the path between your stove and sink. Make sure high chairs and playpens are a safe distance from your stove top and from countertops where hot food containers, hot liquids or other hazards are placed while you cook. Keep child walkers out of the kitchen: they may boost children up so they can reach pot handles and cords. Use the back burners on your stove, and turn pot handles toward the back of your stove top. Make sure all appliance cords are out of reach — the oil in a deep fryer, for example, can cause a serious burn in less than one second. Don’t let children stand on a chair to stir food cooking on a stovetop. Don’t let small children play with pots: they can’t tell the difference between a pot that’s safe to touch and a pot that’s dangerously hot. Don’t let children under the age of 7 operate a microwave—they may be badly scalded by the steam that builds up in containers.
- Around the house. Avoid tablecloths—young children may pull on them and dump hot food on themselves. Don’t place mugs with hot beverage on surfaces — such as a low coffee table — where children can reach them. Never heat baby bottles in the microwave (especially those with plastic liners) and always test the temperature of formula or milk on your wrist or hand before feeding a baby with a bottle. Make sure that potpourri pots and hot steam vaporizers are out of reach, and carefully supervise children if you have hot water/steam radiators.
- In the bathroom. Proper supervision is the single most important factor in avoiding scalds from tap water. Never leave a young child alone during a bath — the child may play with the faucet. Always test the temperature of a child’s bath water: it should feel warm, not hot. If your tub has a single faucet, turn it to the cold setting after filling the tub. Lower the temperature setting on your hot water heater.
- The safest temperature for bathing a young child is 100° F.
- Sunburn: Keep infants out of the hot summer sun. Always use sunscreen; make sure it’s applied generously and often when children play outdoors. If you’re not sure about what type of sunscreen to use, ask your family doctor or a pharmacist.
- Establish a “no-kid” zone around camp fires and outdoor grills.
- Make sure tents are made of flame-retardant fabric and that you have fire extinguishing materials on hand.
- If you use candles for decorative purposes, place candles out of reach and supervise children.
- Keep all matches and lighters out of sight and out of reach of children.
- Leave fireworks to professionals. Every year, more than 4,000 children are burned by backyard fireworks — including sparklers. In many communities, any type of firework is illegal.
- Buy fire retardant clothing for children — especially pajamas. Clothes that are passed down or bought second hand may not meet today’s safety standards.
- Don’t allow children to play with or near electrical appliances such as space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
- Use plug covers on any electrical outlets accessible to small children. Outlet caps that attach to the outlet plate with screws give better protection than those that plug in.
- Make sure plug-in caps are a similar color to the outlet and that they do not pose a choking hazard.
- Teach your children what to do if fire breaks out. Plan safe routes out of your home and have “fire drills.” Show them how to drop and roll if clothing catches on fire, and teach them how to get help quickly.
To learn more, visit the American Burn Association Web site at www.ameriburn.org.