Burn Prevention In Children

What is a burn injury?

Burn injuries occur when skin is exposed to too much heat. Burn injuries are very common among children. They are very painful and can be severe. Children with severe burns may need several months or more of treatment and rehabilitation. Severe burns can be life-threatening. You can prevent burn injuries by learning about the causes and how to keep your child safe.

What may cause a burn injury?

Contact burns often happen when children reach for objects without knowing that they are hot. The most common causes of burns are hot objects such as an iron, a skillet, cigarettes, or fireworks. Children may also get burned when they play with matches or lighters. Some other causes of burn injuries include the following:

  • Harsh chemicals, such as cleaning products, chlorine, or car battery acid

  • Electric currents from lightning, electrical outlets, cords, or wires

  • Steam, hot food, grease spills, boiling water, or other hot liquids

  • Exposure to the sun for long periods of time

What are the signs and symptoms of a burn injury?

The signs and symptoms of a burn depend on how much of the 3 layers of skin has been burned:

  • Superficial burn: A superficial burn, or first-degree burn, is when the outer layer of skin has been burned. The skin is usually red, dry, tender, and painful. The burned area may also swell, turn white when it is touched, and have blisters.

  • Partial thickness burn: This is also called a second-degree burn. The first layer of the skin and some of the second layer have been burned. The skin is red, moist, painful, and develops blisters. Areas of skin may also be waxy white.

  • Full thickness burn: This is also called a third-degree burn. Skin may be charred, black, or leathery. This type of burn is often painless because the nerves that sense pain have been damaged.

How can I prevent contact burns?

  • Keep irons, curling irons, and other hot devices out of your child's reach.

  • Use protective screens or child safety guards around fireplaces, ovens, space heaters, and radiators.

  • Do not eat, drink, or carry anything hot while you hold your child.

  • Do not leave a lit cigarette. Keep cigarette lighters and matches in a safe place where children cannot reach them.

How can I prevent burns caused by hot liquids or steam?

  • Do not heat your baby's bottle in the microwave oven. Always test the temperature of the liquid before you give it to your baby to hold or drink.

  • Check the water temperature before you put your child into the bathtub. Do not let your child touch the faucet handles in the bathtub. Place anti-scald devices on your faucets to check the temperature of water. Lower your hot water heater setting to low or medium (90 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit).

  • Do not leave cups, mugs, or bowls that have hot liquids in them at the edge of a table. Keep pot handles turned away from the stove front.

How can I protect my child from other types of burns?

  • Put sunscreen on your child's skin 30 minutes before he goes outside. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or after he swims or has been sweating. You can also set time limits when you allow your child to stay out in the sun.

  • Do not let your child handle lit firecrackers or sparklers. These can cause serious injuries or burns.

  • Keep your child away from electrical cords and outlets. Cover unused electrical outlets with childproof covers and replace torn or worn cords.

  • Have your child wear pajamas made of flame-resistant fabric. Do not let him wear clothing with fuzzy or napped surfaces, or clothing that is loosely-woven, or loose-fitting. Halloween costumes can also catch fire easily since they have loose, flowing material. Choose clothing for your child that fits snugly against his skin.

  • Teach your child how to stop, drop, and roll. Children will often run if their clothes are on fire. This can make the fire spread. Teach your child how to stop, drop to the ground, and roll around if his clothing catches on fire. This will help protect his face from flames and will help put the fire out.

How can I practice fire safety in my home?

  • Keep a working fire extinguisher in your home. Teach family members how and when to use it.

  • Lock up liquids that may catch on fire, such as gasoline and kerosene. Leave them in the container that they came in and label them.

  • Use smoke detectors in the house and check them regularly to make sure they are working. Replace the batteries twice a year to make sure that these devices are working correctly.

  • Plan how to get out of each room of your house quickly if there is a fire. Teach your children how to get out and where to go. Have fire drills.

When should I call my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • He has a burn injury.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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