Children & Adolescents Clinic

 Home Parent's Guide

Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Spanish version

Burns, Prevention of

Follow these guidelines to protect your child from common burns.

  • Never drink anything hot (such as coffee, tea, or cocoa) when you are holding a baby. The baby will reach for it, spill it, and probably get burned.
  • Try to use the back burners of a stove and keep panhandles turned toward the back of the stove.
  • After your child can walk, keep hot liquids and appliances (such as a pan of boiling water, a coffee pot, a curling iron, or an iron) away from the edge of a table, counter, or stove. A burn from a crockpot usually causes scarring because the contents are sticky and very hot.
  • Lower your hot-water heater setting to 130 degrees F (54 degrees C) or the "low medium" setting. Water heated at higher settings can cause burns in 2 or 3 seconds. You can test the temperature of your hot water by using a candy or meat thermometer.
  • Always test the temperature of bathwater before your child gets into the tub. Supervise young children in the bathtub. Don't let a young child touch the faucet handles. He or she may turn on the hot water and be scalded.
  • Use cool humidifiers, not hot steam vaporizers. A vaporizer can cause severe burns if a child overturns it or puts his face too close to it.
  • Supervise children around fires, stoves, and heaters of any kind.
  • Use flame-resistant sleepwear.
  • Give up smoking, or at least carefully dispose of used cigarettes. Cigarettes are the most common cause of fires in homes.
  • Keep cigarette lighters away from children. Even a 2- year-old child can ignite one by inverting it and pushing it across the floor.
  • Install smoke detectors in your home on every floor. Check them monthly for proper functioning. More people die from smoke inhalation than from burns. Smoke alarms detect smoke long before your nose can.
  • Teach your children not to hide if a fire occurs in the house. Teach them to go outside. Rehearse and have a fire drill.
  • Before you place a child less than 1 year old in a car seat, check the seat's temperature. Hot straps or buckles can cause second-degree burns. Whenever you park in direct sunlight, cover the car seat with a towel or sheet.
  • Avoid fireworks, or allow older children to use them only with close adult supervision. In addition to burns, fireworks (especially bottle rockets) cause 300 cases of blindness per year.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems