Fire Prevention and Burns

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Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness offers fire prevention and burn prevention information and resources to keep children and families safe. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, the rate of fatal fire and burn injury is highest among 0 to 4-year-olds.

Fire Prevention in Homes

Fires can start suddenly. Planning ahead and having working smoke alarms in the home are the best defenses against fires. In most cases, when a child younger than age 5 dies from a residential fire, a fire alarm is not working or not present. These fire prevention tips can help children and families stay safe:

  • Having working smoke detectors installed in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on each floor of the home. Smoke detectors can reduce the chance of dying in a fire by nearly half.
  • Test smoke detectors monthly to make sure they are working correctly. When the alarm’s battery is low, it often “chirps.” Make sure to change the batteries at this time.
  • Shut off space heaters when no one is present in the room. Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from people and furniture — never keep a heater close to a bed.
  • Do not leave a hot stove or oven unattended while cooking. Children should not be near cooking and heating appliances without close adult supervision.
  • Do not leave candles burning in an unattended room.
  • Matches and lighters should be kept safely away from children in a locked drawer or cabinet.
  • Families should make a fire safety plan for their home that includes two exits (doors and/or windows) out of every room and a safe meeting place outside the home. Children and families should practice their plan a few times a year.

Types of Burns

Burns are painful injuries that can be caused by hot liquids or steam (scalds), contact with warm objects, electricity or chemicals. Recovering from burns can be a very long and difficult process.

There are three burn levels, or primary degrees of burns:

  • First degree: This is when the top layer of skin is affected. This type usually is mild, often caused by things such as sun exposure (sunburn) or a scald. This type causes pain, redness and swelling.
  • Second degree: This burn affects both the top layer of skin as well as the underlying layer. This type, also called partial thickness burn, causes pain, swelling, redness and blistering.
  • Third degree: This burn type, also called full thickness burn, affects all layers of the skin, including the deep layers. This causes white or blackened skin and may cause the skin to be numb.

Burns can be minor or major. Minor burns are first-degree burns anywhere on the body or small second-degree burns that are less that 2 to 3 inches wide. Major burns include third-degree burns, large second-degree burns and second-degree burns on the face, hands, feet, groin, buttocks or over a major joint.

Burn Prevention

A child’s skin is thinner than that of an adult, so a child’s skin can burn easily at lower temperatures. Scald burns are the most common type of burns among young children. In fact, it only takes 3 seconds of exposure to hot tap water at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for a young child to sustain a third-degree burn, according to the American Burn Association. Hot water in baths cause more than half of all scalds in children.

Older children tend to have thermal contact burns from touching hot objects, due to playing with fire, candles or fireworks. However, children also can get burned by electricity, chemicals, and hot liquids and foods spilled in the kitchen. Here are the best ways to protect children from burns.

How to Prevent Burns and Scalds

  • Set your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or below to prevent scalding.
  • Consider using anti-scald devices for water faucets and shower heads to prevent scalding.
  • Check the water temperature with your wrist or elbow before bathing a child.
  • Never leave a child under age 5 alone in a tub.
  • Keep children away from heat appliances, such as clothes irons and curling irons, while they heat and cool. Safely store them.
  • To prevent burns and arm and hand injuries, do not allow children to use fireworks. Only adults should handle fireworks, and they should wear safety glasses while doing so.
  • Bystanders can be burned by fireworks as well. People should stay 100 yards away from shooting fireworks.
  • Use the back burners on stove, away from the reach of children. Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove.
  • Use long oven mitts when taking dishes out of the oven or taking pots off the stove.
  • When cooking, put your toddler in a safe area, such as a high chair or playpen.
  • Never leave a child alone in a kitchen.
  • Never carry a child while carrying a hot drink or hot food.
  • Test microwaved foods and drinks before giving them to a young child.
  • Open microwaved containers away from you and your child, as the steam can scald the skin.
  • Teach older children to cook safely. Remind them to never leave the kitchen when cooking and use oven mitts to hold hot pots, even those that are taken out of the microwave.
  • Install child safety plugs into electrical outlets.
  • Keep electrical cords out of a child’s reach.
  • Do not use electrical appliances near water, such as the shower or bath.
  • Turn off the circuit breaker when working with electricity in your home.
  • Keep all cleaners, pool supplies and gasoline out of the reach of children.
  • Wear gloves and other protective gear when using chemicals.

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