Parkridge Health System - February 23, 2023

Woman drinking coffee in a kitchen

Over 486,000 burn injuries that are serious enough to require medical attention take place in the United States every year. Even more, almost a third of all burn injuries occur in children under the age of 15. While burns are a global health problem, we can all take steps towards burn prevention — making everyone safer, because burns affect everyone.

Burns, scalds and immediate first aid

While both burns and scalds are damage to the skin caused by heat, the type of heat that causes each differs. Dry heat causes burns — think fires and irons. Scalds are burn injuries caused by hot liquids, like steam or food. Scalds are particularly dangerous among little ones; the majority of children ages 4 and under who are hospitalized for burn-related injuries suffer from scald burns (65%) or contact burns (20%).

While the causes are different, both scalds and burns should be taken seriously and treated promptly, as quick care limits the amount of damage to one’s skin.

First aid for burns and scalds:

  • Immediately halt the burning process, such as removing the person from the area
  • Put the burned area under cool running water for at least 20 minutes, but don’t use ice (only apply water to the burned area)
  • Remove any clothing around the burn that is not stuck to it
  • Remove any jewelry near the burned area if that is easy to do
  • Use cling-wrap or a clean dressing to cover the burn

Stay smart in the kitchen

Cooking is the number one cause of home fires, which makes it imperative to practice burn and fire prevention when whipping up your favorite dishes.

  • Remain alert. The best time to cook is when you are wide awake, not drowsy from medications or alcohol. Don’t leave a hot oven or stove top unattended. After cooking, check the kitchen to ensure all burners and appliances are turned off.
  • Keep it grease-free. Remember to wipe clean the stove, oven and exhaust fan to prevent grease buildup.
  • Create a kid-free zone. Teach younger children to stay at least 3 feet away from your cooking space. If you need to watch babies while cooking, place them in a highchair outside of the kid-free zone where you can see them.
  • Be prepared. Keep a pan lid and dry potholders or oven mitts near you when you cook. Be sure to turn all handles toward the back of the stove, away from curious hands. Keep hot foods and liquids away from the edge of your counters and tables.
  • Check the temperature. Stir and test food cooked in the microwave before serving, and open heated containers away from you from back to front.

Fire safety tips

While house fires can’t be predicted, we can make household adjustments to prevent them and know what to do in case of a fire.

  • Sound the alarm. Have a working smoke alarm on every level and every sleeping area of your home; teach kids never to play with matches and lighters — stow those items when not in use.
  • Have a plan. Create and practice a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room in case of a fire.
  • Practice with the little ones. Teach kids to get low and get out at the sound of a smoke alarm
  • Keep an eye on candles. Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn. Blow out candles before you leave the room or before you go to sleep.

Protecting children from burns and scalds

Nearly 75% of all scalding burns in children are preventable; that’s why we want to ensure our patients and community have a wealth of burn prevention tools in their toolbox. Implement these everyday safety tips to protect little ones while they’re exploring their new world.

  • Watch the appliances. Unplug and safely store irons, flatirons and other appliances. These appliances can become very hot and take a long time to cool down, so don’t leave them unattended when in use. Make sure to turn off and unplug appliances when you’re not using them.
  • Be aware of bath time. Set your water heater to a maximum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Check bathwater temperature before placing your child in the bath. Check the water temperature with the inside of your wrist just as you would with baby’s milk. The water should feel warm to the touch, not hot. Place your child in the bath facing away from the water faucet — this way they won’t be tempted to touch the hot faucet or turn on the hot water.
  • Stay alert around batteries. Keep devices with button batteries out of children’s reach. When swallowed, a child’s saliva triggers an electrical current which can cause a severe chemical burn in their esophagus. Learn more about button battery safety.
  • Put down the hot drink. Never hold or carry a child with a hot drink in your hand, and use a travel mug with a tight-fitting lid for all hot drinks

If you or someone you know if suffering from a severe burn, seek care immediately. Parkridge Health offers burn care at our emergency rooms for children and adults, staffed 27/7 with board-certified emergency physicians prepared to treat a broad range of injuries and illnesses.