April 5, 2017

Keeping kids safe from burn dangers in unexpected places

Most parents of young children are familiar with the safety section in the baby aisle of their local store where you can find just about anything — cabinet locks, furniture straps, even a bumper to protect little heads from bathtub faucets. But even the most safety-conscious of parents may forget about burn dangers that can crop up in common and not-so-common places.

All parents get tired. It comes with the territory. If you establish strong safety habits from the start they become just that — habits. If you become distracted, as we all do sometimes, whether by your child, an unexpected interruption or just plain "spacing out," having strong habits in place can help make it more difficult for kids to get into a dangerous situation in the home. After you've made sure your water heater is set to 120ºF, smoke alarms have been installed, and your electrical outlets aren't overloaded, take a few additional steps to help ensure your home stays safe for the youngest members of your family.

In the kitchen

As children grow, they like to try out their independence. And that may mean trying to help mom or dad in the kitchen. In the Burn Center at University Hospital, we care for a lot of little ones who have accidentally spilled hot food and liquids onto themselves. We've even seen children who have ended up with arms or legs inside of crockpots. As you're preparing your family's meals, remember to keep everything you need. And consider the following:

  • Kids can be faster (and stretchier) than grown-ups. You might not think twice about holding a toddler while checking on something cooking on the stovetop, but a quick grab or kick will send a hot pot flying.

  • Arrange the kitchen with safety in mind: keep silverware in a drawer away from the toaster; store the kids' dishes away from the stove; keep dishwashing liquid on a high shelf; etc.

  • Keep the stovetop and ovens safe: use guards or take knobs off the front of the stove; use only the back burners if possible; consider a splatter cover to help keep grease from going the distance; and remember — hot steam can burn too, so be careful when removing lids to check on food.

  • Teach kids to be extra careful when removing items from the microwave. Steam, hot dishes, and overheated food are all dangerous.

  • Make sure things are way back from the edges of counters and tables. Hot coffee, bowls of soup, even frozen meals out of the microwave — all it takes is a moment of setting something down for a little one to pull it over.

  • Be a good example and use hot pads for grilling or cooking rather than towels.

  • Make sure kids know that grills and grilling tools are also hot.

  • Teach kids that appliances often stay hot long after they are turned off.

The kitchen is the first place that probably comes to mind when thinking about possible burn dangers, but there are other places you may not consider, like the bathroom, pantry and even the play room. A few to be aware of include:  

  • Belts on treadmills or vacuums when they're turned on

  • Metal grills at the end of hairdryers

  • Curling and flat irons

  • Lightbulbs, especially lamps, that are in reach

  • Cleaning products — keep in mind the packaging can be misleading and especially with store brands, the logo might be similar to those found on fruit juices, for example

  • Cleansers, especially those that might be attractive to kids like laundry pods or magic eraser type sponges

  • Batteries — make sure they are properly and securely placed inside of toys (preferably under a compartment lid that is held by screws) and keep button batteries stored well out of reach

If the worst happens

Despite our best efforts, injuries do still occur. If it happens to you, remember very small burns can often be treated at home.

  • Stay calm so your children can feel calm

  • Remove the source (remove clothes, remove jewelry from affected area, wash off hot substances)

  • Do not use ice. Run cool water over the burn. Apply soothing lotion (not butter or other home remedies)

  • Cover with a non-stick dressing as needed for protection and comfort.

Call 911 if:

  • Your child has pain that is not easily controlled

  • You are worried the child could have an inhalation injury (from smoke, steam, heat, hot substances, or chemical fumes)

  • Involves the face, hands or fingers, genitals, or feet

  • Is on or near a joint (knee, shoulder, hip)

  • Fully circles a body part (arm, leg, foot, chest, finger)

  • Is large or deep (any partial-thickness or full thickness). If you have any doubt about whether the burn is large or deep, it is best to see a healthcare provider.

  • You should also seek help right away If there are signs of skin infection, such as increasing redness, pain, pus-like discharge, or temperature greater than 100.4ºF or 38ºC