Burn safety: Protect your child from burns
Medically reviewed on February 25, 2017.
Burn safety is a foreign concept to most young explorers. In fact, one of the most difficult lessons young children might learn is that some things — such as stoves, radiators and flickering flames — can be painfully hot. If children play with matches or lighters, the threat can extend to the entire family.
Take burn safety precautions to prevent injuries and dangerous situations.
Burn safety at home
Many ordinary things in a home — including bath water, food and electrical outlets — can cause childhood burns. To prevent burns at home:
- Reduce water temperature. Set the thermostat on your hot water heater to below 120 F (48.9 C). Aim for bath water around 100 F (38 C). Check the temperature of bath water with your hand before putting your child in the bath.
- Avoid hot spills. Don't cook, drink or carry hot beverages or foods while holding a child. Keep hot foods and liquids away from table and counter edges. Don't use tablecloths or placemats, which young children can pull down. Turn the handles of your pots and pans toward the rear of the stove and use back burners when possible. Don't leave the stove unattended when you're cooking.
- Establish 'no' zones. Block access to the stove, fireplace, space heaters and radiators. Don't leave a child unattended in a room when these items are in use.
- Keep hot devices out of reach. Store items designed to get hot, such as clothes irons or curling irons, unplugged and out of reach.
- Test food temperature before feeding young children. Be careful with food or liquids warmed in a microwave, which might heat foods unevenly. Never warm a baby's bottle in the microwave.
- Choose a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer. Cool-mist humidifiers prevent steam burns and hot-water spills.
- Address outlets and electrical cords. Cover unused electrical outlets with safety caps. Inserting a fork, key or other metal object into an outlet could result in an electrical burn. Keep electrical cords and wires out of the way so that children don't chew on them. Replace damaged, brittle or frayed electrical cords. Don't run cords under rugs or carpets.
- Choose fire-resistant fabrics. Check labels to make sure mattresses and pajamas meet federal flammability standards.
Burn safety outdoors
To protect children from outdoor hazards:
- Watch grills and fire pits. Don't let children play near grills, fire pits or campfires.
- Check car seats. Before placing your child in a car seat, check for hot straps or buckles. If you park in direct sunlight, cover the car seat with a towel or blanket.
- Avoid backyard fireworks. Don't let children play with or near fireworks or sparklers.
To prevent accidental fires:
- Lock up matches and lighters. Store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet or drawer. Teach children that matches and lighters aren't toys.
- Be careful with candles. Keep burning candles out of reach of children, and extinguish candles before leaving the room.
- Take care with cigarettes. Don't smoke in the house — especially in bed. Use large, deep ashtrays. Empty them frequently and douse with water before disposing ashes and cigarettes.
- Use space heaters wisely. Keep space heaters at least 3 feet (about 1 meter) away from bedding, drapes, furniture and other flammable materials. Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place a space heater near someone who's sleeping.
- Keep your fireplace clean. An annual cleaning and inspection of a fireplace and chimney can help prevent a chimney fire.
- Store flammable materials. Store flammable liquids in original containers, out of reach of children and away from open flames such as pilot lights or grills.
Fire emergency plan
To prevent injury if a fire occurs:
- Install fire alarms. Install at least one fire alarm on each floor of your home and near any bedrooms. Keep the alarms clean and test them monthly. Use long-life batteries and change them at least once a year. Replace smoke alarms every 10 years or after the expiration date marked on the device.
- Learn to use a fire extinguisher. Keep a working fire extinguisher in your kitchen and learn how to use it properly. Store it on a wall out of reach of children and near a door, so that you can exit away from a fire if necessary.
- Teach children to stop, drop and roll. Teach children what to do if their clothes catch fire. Stop immediately and do not run; drop to the floor and cover the face with hands; and roll on the floor to put out flames.
- Practice an evacuation plan. Create and practice an evacuation plan with your children. Determine two ways to exit any room in a house. Don't use lockable doorknobs on a child's bedroom. Teach your children to leave a burning building by crawling under the smoke. Determine a meeting place outside, preferably in the front of a house where firefighters can easily find you. If you live in an apartment building, practice using posted emergency exit routes with your children.