December 30, 2021

UW Health Kids shares tips about fireplace safety this winter

Madison, Wis. – On a cold, wintry day, it can be cozy to warm up by the fireplace but for a young child, especially those learning to walk or crawl, it can be dangerous.

In the past three years, UW Health’s Burn and Wound Center has treated 25 kids, including 10 in 2021, for fireplace-related burns.

Gas fireplace glass can reach 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit and serious burn injuries from this hot glass can happen in less than a second, according to Dr. Angela Gibson, burn and acute care surgeon, UW Health, and assistant professor of surgery at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

“New walkers, age 11 to 15 months, are at the greatest risk because they are unsteady as they learn to walk and use surfaces for balance,” she said. “They have slower reflexes and may not be able to pull their hands away as quickly. Kids also have thinner skin on their palms which could lead to more serious burns.”

Fireplace surfaces can remain hot for one hour or longer after use too, she said.

“It is so devastating to see these preventable burns in young children. It is vital to take safety measures to protect them,” said Gibson.

To help prevent this type of burn, parents or guardians can:

  • Install a screen barrier and use safety gates for both gas and wood burning fireplaces.

  • Closely supervise toddlers and young children around fireplaces, including fireplaces in other people’s homes and in restaurants.

  • Make sure fireplace power switches and remote controls are out of the reach of children.

Over the past three years there have been almost 450 pediatric burn-related hospital admissions to the UW Health Burn and Wound Center, which is Wisconsin’s only American Burn Association-verified burn center for kids and adults.