Burns prevention depends on keeping your child away from anything hot and supervising him closely whenever he’s near things that can burn.
Basic burns prevention
Your child has no way of knowing that an exhaust pipe, an iron or any other hot surface can hurt and burn, or that hot water can burn in the same way fires can.
Supervision is the only reliable way to prevent accidents with things that burn.
So safety rule number one is to watch your child constantly – especially around stoves, ovens, microwaves, heaters and other appliances.
Seek immediate medical help from a doctor, hospital or medical centre if a child’s burn is the size of a 20-cent piece or larger, if the burned skin looks raw, angry or blistered, or if the pain persists or is severe. Call an ambulance if the burn is larger than the size of the child’s hand, or is on the face, neck or genitals. See more in our burns first aid article.
Preventing burns indoors
You can prevent burns indoors by being aware of common risks and avoiding them.
- Teach your children to stay out of the kitchen when you’re cooking. Avoid leaving the kitchen unattended if you’re using pots and pans, toasters, sandwich presses, slow cookers and rice cookers.
- Keep children’s play areas away from your kitchen.
- Use the back burners on the stove first. Turn handles on pots and pans towards the back of the stove.
- Install a guard around the hot plates on your stove.
- Ensure kettle cords don’t hang down within reach of your child. Use appliances with short cords.
Living and family areas
- Save ironing for after your children are asleep. You could also put your children – or yourself! – in a playpen while you iron.
- Keep clothes and toys at least 1 m away from heat generating appliances.
- Use placemats rather than tablecloths. If children tug on a tablecloth, it can bring hot food and drinks down on top of them.
- Buy children close-fitting nightwear and dressing gowns with ‘low fire danger’ labels.
- Try to keep bedside lamps and light bulbs out of reach, or unplugged, until your child is old enough (about three years) to understand that they burn.
- Babies and children can be scalded by hot drinks. Don’t have hot drinks when nursing a baby. When you’re drinking a hot drink, you might want to put your baby in a playpen. And make sure you put your cup well out of older children’s reach – the centre of the table is usually good.
- To guard against accidents with hot water like dishwater and bathwater, turn down your water heater. Ensure bathroom water is delivered at a maximum 50ºC to prevent serious scalds.
- Always supervise children carefully around any naked flames, like open fires, gas burners, incense burners and candles.
- Lock matches and cigarette lighters up high and out of reach, and always smoke out of the house and away from children. This also reduces your child’s exposure to harmful second-hand smoke.
Fires can start as a result of cooking accidents, smoldering cigarettes, electrical faults, candles, incense and children playing with lighters and matches. You can develop and practise a plan in case there’s a fire in your home.
Preventing burns outdoors
You can prevent burns outdoors by being aware of common risks and avoiding them.
Outdoor cooking and heating
- Keep a close watch on children while your barbecue is heating up, being used or cooling down. Some barbecues can keep their heat for hours. Use water to put out embers and rake ashes so they lose their heat more quickly.
- Campfire embers, coals and ashes can stay hot for up to eight hours after the fire has been buried under dirt or sand.
Other outdoor burn hazards
- Keep children away from exhaust pipes on cars and motorcycles. Exhaust pipes are easy to reach and can cause serious burns.
- Check whether seatbelt buckles have heated up when the weather is hot.
- Lock away tools like blow torches and soldering irons.
- In hot weather, check metal playground equipment, especially slides. They can get hot enough to burn a child.