Preventing Child Burns: a Parent’s Guide

There’s no question that children are curious. In some cases, this can lead to accidental injuries — and burns are at the top of the list. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, child burns are one of the leading causes of accidental, at-home injuries. Yet, many pediatric hospitals reference that nearly 75 percent of all scalding burns in children are preventable.

Some of the most common child burns that occur in the home are a result from direct contact with hot liquids or objects. For instance, when a child grabs his or her mother’s curling iron or when a child reaches for a pot handle filled with boiling water. A burn could even result from something as mundane as a spilt cup of hot coffee.

These instances can result in a first-degree or a second-degree burn, and in some cases depending on the severity of the mishap, even a third-degree burn. A first-degree burn — often red and painful — or second-degree burn — also red with swollen area and blistering — could result from a child’s direct contact with a hot liquid or object depending on the length of contact and how hot the item is.

[See: The 5 Latest Poison Control Threats Kids Face.]

So, how can parents and caregivers do their part in reducing the number of preventable child burns at home? There are several at-home safety tips I always recommend when speaking with parents:

Keep hot liquids and cooking accessories inaccessible to the child. This includes removing any tablecloths the child could pull on that may result in a hot liquid knocking over.

Ensure hot objects are out of the child’s reach. Any accompanying cords should also be tucked away.

Create barriers from ovens and fireplaces. Just like a gate that blocks a child from falling down the stairs, a similar gate should be used near ovens and fireplaces. It’s also important to be mindful when cooking should a child be in the way of moving a hot pan from the stove to the sink.

Hide electrical cords and cover outlets with safety caps. This is already widely practiced, but it’s also important to be mindful of other locations where your child might encounter an outlet, like playing at a neighbor’s house.

These preventable measures may already be in place but serve as a good refresher for parents and caregivers. These precautions can certainly help to avoid any mishaps, and after all, prevention is better than treating a burn.

[See: 10 Things Pediatricians Advise That Parents Ignore — and Really Shouldn’t.]

Unfortunately, these situations cannot always be avoided. That’s why parents need to be prepared should an instance occur. Here are the four steps parents and caregivers should follow immediately:

1. Remove the offending heat source immediately.

2. Apply a cool compress to the affected area. Ice should not be used to cool the area as it might freeze the tissue and increase the injury. Instead, use a wash cloth with cool water.

3. Continue to replace the compress on the burned area to ensure it stays cool.

4. Seek immediate medical care as soon as possible.

Getting a medical personnel’s opinion is always recommended in these types of situations. By taking the child to the nearest hospital, parents and caregivers can ensure any concerns are addressed and handled immediately. If the burn affects 10 percent of the child’s body, a designated burn center is required.

As an aside, being aware of surrounding burn centers is always a good preventative measure in case of an emergency. In addition, keeping a good first aid kit at the home can help parents be prepared should an incident occur.

[See: The 11 Most Dangerous Places in Your Home for Babies and Small Kids.]

The reality is that children will always be curious. Parents can’t stop their children from being curious, and nor should they. Instead, parents and caregivers can take necessary precautions to avoid burn incidents from happening at home and be equipped with the knowledge to handle an emergency.

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