Children are naturally curious — if mom or dad is cooking in the kitchen, or if they see hot water running from the faucet, they want to investigate and find out what's going on.
However, that innate curiosity can be dangerous, and children easily can become injured if they touch a pan from the stove or put their hand in water that's too hot.
This week is National Burn Awareness Week, and Captain Rob Hiebert with Newton Fire/EMS encourages parents to make sure their home is safe from burn hazards, and reminds them that fire is not the only danger.
"Hot water is probably one of the biggest, most frequent burns for children," he said. "... Parents, be aware of your water temperatures and don't leave a child unattended."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day more than 300 children ages 0 to 19 are treated in emergency rooms for burn-related injuries and two children die as a result of being burned.
Safe Kids Kansas reports hot water scalds are the leading cause of burns to young children and can be caused by hot liquids or steam. Hot tap water accounts for almost 1 in 4 of all scald burns among children and is associated with more deaths and hospitalizations than any other hot liquid burns. Children also can be seriously injured by hot foods and beverages, space heaters, irons, hot pots and pans, electrical currents and chemicals.
Young children are especially at risk for burns because they cannot recognize heat-related hazards quickly enough to react appropriately. Children’s skin is thinner than adults’ and burns at lower temperatures and more deeply. A child exposed to 140-degree Fahrenheit liquid for five seconds will sustain a third-degree burn.
Safe Kids Kansas and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide the following burn prevention tips:
- Check your water temperature. Set your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. When using water taps, always turn the cold water on first, then add hot. Reverse the order when turning water off. Always check bath and sink water with your wrist or elbow before placing your child in it.
- Childproof your home and talk to your child about burn safety. Playing with matches and lighters is one of the leading causes of fire deaths to young children. Keep these items locked up out of sight and out of reach. Discuss good fires and bad fires and how matches and lighters are to be used responsibly. Explain these items are not toys. Keep burning candles safely out of reach of children.
- Prevent spills. Cook with pots and pans on back burners and turn handles away from the front. Don’t place containers of hot food or liquid near the edge of a counter or table and remove tablecloths so children don’t accidentally pull hot items down onto themselves.
- Establish a “kid-free zone.” Make the stove area a “kid-free zone” (3 feet is a good distance). 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.
- Keep electrical cords out of reach, especially 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.
- 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 giving children your full attention," a news release stated.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms in your home — on every floor and near all rooms family members sleep in. Test your smoke alarms once a month to make sure they are working properly, and replace the batteries once a year. Also, create and practice a family fire escape plan, and involve children in the planning. Make sure everyone knows at least two ways out of every room and identify a central meeting place outside.
Hiebert said if your child does have a burn injury, run cool water over the burned area. If you suspect the injury is beyond a mild first-degree burn, it should be evaluated by a doctor. Burns on a child's face should always be examined by a medical professional.