How to prevent burns

We’ve all had burns. Maybe you touched a hot pan without an oven mitt or sipped hot coffee before it cooled. While these are mild burns, the risk of severe burns in the home is high, especially for children. Something as common as a pot of boiling water close to the edge of the stove or an uncovered outlet can cause serious injury.

Accidents happen. With the right precautions, you can lower your family’s risk of burns.

The Regions Hospital Burn Center team is committed to burn prevention. We have partnerships with firefighters, rural and regional health care providers, emergency medical staff and industry leaders to reduce the risk of burns. We’re actively involved in our community, working to educate children, families and neighborhoods about burn prevention. Learn more about how you can prevent burns around the home.

Tips for burn prevention and safety

Many types of burns are preventable with the right education and prevention techniques. From the kitchen to the backyard, there are steps you can take to help prevent burns.

How to prevent burns and fires around the home

Accidents happen, but there are some things you can do to lower your risk of fires and burns in the home:

  • Have working smoke detectors on each level of your home and outside each sleeping area. Test your detectors monthly and replace batteries twice a year.
  • Have a plan of action in case of fire. Make sure there are two escape routes from each room. Know and practice your escape plan.
  • Learn how to use a fire extinguisher. This can help prevent small fires from becoming large, damaging ones. You should keep one in the kitchen, one near the furnace and one near the washer and dryer.
  • Keep children away from fireplaces and stoves. If you have a gas fireplace or wood-burning stove, put a gate around it so your toddler won’t touch or accidentally fall on it. Make sure they know that the stove is hot and should stay away from it.
  • Be careful with space heaters. Avoid putting space heaters in rooms where children play or sleep. Place heaters more than three feet away from drapes, blankets, furniture or other flammable objects.
  • Keep children away from fires and campfires. And remember, gasoline should only be used to fuel engines, not to start or maintain fires.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach. Put them in a high cabinet or locked drawer so children can’t find them.
  • Don’t leave candles unattended. Make sure to blow them out whenever you leave the room.

Kitchens are common sites of household burns. Taking a few simple precautions can help you prevent children’s burns:

  • Keep your child out of the kitchen while you’re cooking. Set them up in a playpen or their bedroom until the meal is done.
  • Never drink or carry hot liquids while holding a baby. This reduces your risk of accidentally spilling on the child.
  • Don’t let kids remove hot food or liquids from a microwave oven. The container might be incredibly hot and burn your child’s hands. Use oven mitts or other protection when removing hot items from the microwave.
  • Practice caution when using the stove. Use burners on the back of the stove and turn the handles of pots and pans toward the back. This reduces the chance that you or your child will knock hot food off the stove.
  • Keep cords out of children’s reach. They might pull hot coffeepots and other appliances down from the counter.

How to prevent burns in the bathroom

With hot water faucets, appliances and outlets, the bathroom is full of potential burn risks. Following a few best practices can help prevent a painful burn.

  • Check bath water temperatures with your wrist or elbow before bathing your child. It should be warm to the touch.
  • Lower the temperature on the hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Don’t leave children alone in the bathtub. A child may turn on the faucet. And if the water is hot, the child could be burned. If you have a one-handle faucet, keep it on a cold setting.
  • Keep hot appliances out of reach. Curling irons, hair dryers and other hot appliances can burn your children.

How to prevent electrical burns

Electrical burns can cause significant damage to the deeper layers of your skin (dermis). Taking a few steps to prevent them can help keep you and your family safe.

  • Check electrical cords. Make sure to throw out and replace any frayed electrical cords.
  • Don’t overload power strips, extension cords or outlets. Never plug more than two appliances into an outlet at once. And don’t plug one power strip into another.
  • Put childproof covers on outlets to prevent children from sticking their fingers or objects inside.

How to prevent children’s sunburns

Playing in the sun is one of the best parts of childhood, but it does bring the risk of a sunburn. There are a few things you can do to protect your child’s skin from harmful UV rays:

  • Avoid exposing your baby directly to the sun. Your baby’s skin is very tender and can easily be sunburned. Sunscreen with SPF 30 and hats can help.
  • Stay out of the sun during the middle of the day. The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Try to play inside during this time.
  • Dress your child in UV protective clothing. UV rays can get through regular clothing. If you’re going to be outside for a long time, opting for specially designed UV protective clothing adds another layer of sunburn prevention.

How to prevent burns outdoors

There are several precautions you can take to avoid burn accidents outdoors, including:

  • Don’t leave campfires or grills unattended. The fire could grow out of control without anyone watching, or a child might touch the hot fire while you’ve stepped away. Keep in mind that embers and charcoal can remain hot for hours, even after the fire is extinguished.
  • Cover seatbelts and buckles while parking in the sun. The heat from the sun can make straps and buckles hot enough to cause burns. Cover seatbelts and car seats with towels or blankets while parked outside. Make sure to check the temperature with your hand before buckling in your child.
  • Don’t set off backyard fireworks. Fireworks and sparklers can cause severe burn injuries. Choose to enjoy professional fireworks instead.

What to do if your child is burned

If your child is burned, immediately remove clothing and run the affected area under a cool water faucet or shower for five minutes. Don’t use ice. This reduces the amount of skin damage by quickly cooling the area and reduces pain.

You can use ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce pain. If blisters form on the burn, don’t break them.

Topical sprays or creams aren’t recommended except for very mild burns such as sunburn. Don’t put butter on a burn. Blistered burns on the hand or face should always be checked by a doctor.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)