During National Burn Awareness Week (February 1-7), Safe Kids Kansas reminds parents and caregivers that fire is just one cause of burn injuries — children can also be seriously injured by hot foods and beverages, heating appliances, hot pots and pans, electrical currents and chemicals.
Among all accidental injuries, fire and burns are the number five cause of death in children ages 14 and under — in part because young children cannot recognize heat-related hazards quickly enough to react appropriately. Children’s skin burns at lower temperatures and more deeply than that of older children and adults. A child exposed to 140-degree Fahrenheit liquid for five seconds will sustain a third-degree burn.
Each year, approximately 113,600 children ages 14 and under are treated for fire/burn injuries and 518 children die due to unintentional fire- and burn-related injury. Scald burns, caused by hot liquids or steam, are more common types of burn-related injuries among young children, compared to contact burns, caused by direct contact with fire, which is more prevalent among older children. Hot tap water accounts for nearly 1 in 4 of all scald burns among children and is associated with more deaths and hospitalizations than any other hot liquid burns. “Kids are also at risk around hot foods and beverages, space heaters, steam irons and curling irons,” says Jan Stegelman, Safe Kids director. “There’s a lot you can do around the home to minimize the risk of burn injuries in everyday life.”
Safe Kids Kansas urges caregivers to:
Ÿ Reduce water temperature. Set your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider putting anti-scald devices (about $40) on each water faucet and showerhead. Check the bathwater with your wrist or elbow before placing your child in it.
Ÿ Prevent spills. If possible, cook with pots and pans on back burners and turn handles away from the front. Avoid wearing long sleeves or baggy clothes in the kitchen. Don’t place containers of hot food or liquid near the edge of a counter or table and remove tablecloths.
· Establish a “kid-free zone.” Make the stove area a “kid-free zone” (3 feet is a good distance). Mark it on the floor with bright tape. Never leave your child alone in the kitchen. Don’t hold children while cooking or while carrying hot foods and beverages.
· Test food and drink temperature. Taste cooked foods and heated liquids to make sure they’re not too hot for children. Never microwave a baby’s bottle. Drinks heated in a microwave may be much hotter than their containers. Instead, heat bottles with warm water and test them before feeding your child.
Ÿ Keep electrical cords out of reach — especially extension cords and cords connected to heating appliances such as coffee pots and deep fryers. Make sure electrical cords can’t be pulled or snagged into a bathtub or sink. Don’t leave a hot iron sitting on an ironing board unattended.
Ÿ Childproof your home. Cover open electrical outlets so children can’t insert metal objects into outlets, which can cause electrical burns. Lock matches, lighters and flammable materials out of a child’s reach. Keep children away from candles and other open flames.
Ÿ Actively supervise. Simply being in the same room with a child is not necessarily supervising. Safety precautions are important, but there is no substitute for active supervision.
Ÿ Don’t let children play with or ignite fireworks. Fireworks injured more than 2,304 children in 2006. Fireworks are intended for use by adults in open spaces with plenty of active supervision for every child present.
It is still important to take precautions against fire, too. “You need a smoke alarm on each level of your home and in every sleeping area. Make sure each alarm actually works,” says Stegelman. Test your smoke alarms once a month and replace the batteries once a year (except for lithium batteries that last for 10 years according to manufacturer’s instructions). A working smoke alarm reduces the risk of dying in a fire by about 50 percent.
For more information about burn prevention, visit www.usa.safekids.org.