Mayo Clinic Health Library

Burn safety: Protect your child from burns

Updated: 02-12-2011

Burn safety is a foreign concept for most young explorers. In fact, one of the most difficult lessons young children might learn is that some things — such as stoves, radiators and flickering flames — can be painfully hot. And if children play with matches or lighters, the threat can extend to the entire family. Take simple burn-safety precautions to prevent injuries and the dangerous situations that cause them.

Burn safety at home

Many ordinary things in a home — from bath water and hot food to electrical outlets — can cause childhood burns. To prevent burns, follow these burn-safety tips:

  • Reduce water temperature. Set the thermostat on your hot water heater to below 120 F (48.9 C). Consider installing anti-scald devices on bathtub faucets and shower heads. Always test the water temperature before your child gets in the tub.
  • Avoid hot spills. Don't cook, drink or carry hot beverages or soup while holding a child. Keep hot foods and liquids away from table and counter edges. Don't use tablecloths or placemats, which young children can pull down. When you're using the stove, use back burners and turn the handles of your pots and pans inward. Avoid leaving food cooking on the stove unattended.
  • Establish 'no' zones. Block access to the stove and fireplace, and make space heaters and hot water heaters inaccessible.
  • Unplug irons. Store items designed to get hot, such as clothes irons, unplugged and out of reach.
  • Test food temperature. Food or liquids warmed in a microwave may heat unevenly. Never warm a baby's bottle in the microwave.
  • Choose a cool-water humidifier or vaporizer. If you use a hot-steam vaporizer, keep it out of reach.
  • Address outlets and electrical cords. Place plastic plugs in electrical outlets. Inserting a fork, key or other metal object into an outlet could result in an electrical burn. Keep electrical cords and wires out of the way so children don't chew on them. Replace damaged, brittle or frayed electrical cords.

Also, check product labels to make sure mattresses and pajamas meet federal flammability standards. Avoid loosefitting garments made of 100 percent cotton, such as oversized T-shirts.

Burn-safety outdoors

These burn-safety measures can protect children from outdoor hazards:

  • Watch grills and fire pits. Don't allow children to play near these potential hazards.
  • Check car seats. Before placing your child in a car seat, check for hot straps or buckles. If you park in direct sunlight, cover the car seat with a towel or blanket.
  • Forgo backyard fireworks. Leave fireworks to trained professionals.

Fire safety counts, too

Take these simple precautions to prevent fires:

  • Lock up matches and lighters. Store matches, lighters and flammable liquids in a locked cabinet or drawer. Teach children that matches and lighters aren't toys.
  • Be careful with candles and cigarettes. Keep burning candles out of reach, and extinguish candles before leaving the room. If you smoke, avoid smoking in the house — especially in bed. Be sure cigarettes are completely out before throwing them away.
  • Use space heaters with care. Keep space heaters at least three feet (about one meter) away from bedding, drapes, furniture and other flammable materials. Keep children away from space heaters. Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater near someone who's sleeping.
  • Keep your fireplace clean. An annual cleaning and inspection can help prevent a chimney fire.

In case of emergency, keep fire extinguishers handy throughout your home. Teach children to leave a burning building by crawling under the smoke, and to stop, drop and roll if clothes catch fire. And be sure to install and maintain smoke alarms on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas. Being prepared for an emergency can be the best safety tool of all.

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