Child Safety: Preventing Burn Injuries at Home

by John McKiggan

75% of burns and scalding injuries happen in the home. Water doesn’t have to be boiling (100 degrees C) to be a serious danger. At a temperature of 68 degrees Celsius water can cause third degree burns in less than one second!

“What’s a Third Degree Burn?”

Third degree burns happen when all three layers of the skin are destroyed. Third degree burns require immediate medical attention. Treatment and recuperation requires skin grafts and can require months of painful rehabilitation.

According to the Journal of Burn Care and Research more than 1,000 children are treated in emergency rooms across Canada every year for burn injuries. Children aged 1 to 5 years were at the highest risk of death.

Don’t Understand the Danger

Children are more prone to burn injuries because they do not understand the danger associated with boiling water, hot stoves etc.

They also have thinner skin which gives them less protection against burn injuries. In fact, non-fire related burns are the leading cause of death for children age 4 and younger.

Dangerous Places

Most people assume that the kitchen is where most injuries happen. Few realize that bathrooms and radiators can be just as dangerous. Emergency departments frequently see cases where children have been placed into bath tubs without the parents checking the temperature of the water, resulting in serious scalding injuries. Scalding injuries represent 50% of all hospital admissions due to burns.

Burn Prevention

The easiest way to ensure that you are not scalded by tap, bath or shower water is to make sure that it does not get hot enough to injure yourself or family in the first place.

Make sure your hot water heater isn’t set any higher than 48 degrees Celsius. This will greatly reduce the chances of being burned if someone happens to flush the toilet when you or your child is in the shower.

If you are a tenant and don’t have access to your hot water heater, notify your landlord by letter and ask that they turn down the temperature on the hot water heater. It’s unlikely that your landlord will object since turning down the temperature on the hot water heater will save the landlord money.

In the winter some people use space heaters to heat their homes. You can read more about the dangers of space heaters here:Space Heaters: Safety Tips to Prevent Burns Injuries and Fires

Kitchen Injuries
boiling%20water.bmp Cooking temperatures are frequently close to boiling which can cause third degree burns in less than a second. Most burn injuries in the kitchen result from hot water or oil spills.

Prevention Tips

• Use back burners whenever possible.
• Keep handles of pots facing in.
• Never leave children alone in the kitchen while you are cooking.

Burn Treatment

If you suffer a burn there are a few simple steps you can take to reduce the chances of suffering long term injuries.

• If the burn is serious call 911 and ask for an ambulance.

• Immediately pour cool (not cold) water on the burned area for 3-5 minutes or until the ambulance arrives.

• Cover the area with clean gauze or bandages. Do not apply aloe or other ointments because impurities can cause infections.

• Do not break any blisters. This can also result in an infection.

• Wear loose clothing while the burns are healing.

Further Resources

Sick Kids Hospital Burn Prevention Team

Burn Prevention for Families With Children With Special Needs: Video

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