Burn safety: Protect your child from burns

Promote burn safety by taking these important child safety measures.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Burn safety is a foreign concept to most young explorers. In fact, one of the most difficult lessons young children 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 place mats, 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 vaporizer. They prevent steam burns.
  • Address outlets and electrical cords. Cover unused electrical outlets with safety caps. Keep electrical cords and wires out of the way so that children don’t pull on or chew on them. Replace frayed, broken or worn electrical cords.
  • 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, fire pits and camp fires. Never leave them unattended.
  • 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.

Fire prevention

To prevent accidental fires:

  • Hide matches and lighters. Store matches, lighters and ashtrays out of your child’s sight and reach or lock them in a cabinet.
  • 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. If you do, use deep ashtrays. Empty them frequently and douse with water before disposing of ashes.
  • 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.
  • 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 tightly sealed in original containers, out of reach of children and away from sources of heat or flames.

Never leave a room unattended when candles, fireplaces or heaters are in use.

Fire emergency plan

To prevent injury if a fire occurs:

  • Install smoke alarms. Install at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home inside and outside of all sleeping areas. Clean alarms monthly and push the button on the alarm every month to make sure it works. Use long-life batteries or change them at least once a year. Replace smoke alarms that are more than 10 years old.
  • Learn to use a fire extinguisher. Keep a working fire extinguisher in your home. Place it high on a wall near an exit. Learn how to use the device properly.
  • Teach children to stop, drop and roll. Teach children what to do if their clothes catch on fire. Stop immediately and don’t 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 an evacuation plan and practice it every six months. Determine two ways to exit each room and where to meet outside. Don’t use lockable doorknobs on a child’s bedroom. Teach your children to leave a smoky area by crawling on the floor.