A Quick Guide on How to Protect Your Family from Burns and Fires

A Guide on How to Protect Your Family from Burns & Fires

By Natalia Gilbert, MD Candidate with Julie Belkowitz, MD, MPH, Lyse Deus and Oneith Cadiz, MD, from InjuryFreeMiami.org

Children explore the world by touching, climbing, and experimenting with anything that grabs their attention. It can be quite challenging to always keep track of a curious child.

This can be risky, though, as there are many items in a home that can be dangerous for a child to get a hold of. Common situations that may cause serious harm to a child include toppling over a hot cup of coffee, taking a bath with hot water, touching the stovetop or oven, or getting burned from cooking with a microwave. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), younger children tend to get burned from hot water scalding, while older children tend to obtain burns from direct contact with flames. Children are often unaware of these dangers and depend on adults to protect them from harmful situations.

According to the American Burn Association, each day approximately 300 children are taken to the Emergency Department and two children die from burn injuries. Children less than 16 years old account for about 26% of all admissions to burn center hospitals.

The best way to protect your family is to take preventative measures to decrease the chance of a burn or fire, and to make sure there is a safety plan set up if either does occur!
What can I do to prevent a burn or scald injury at home?

Children are at risk for burns from hot liquids, hot surfaces like a stovetop, and contact with electricity and chemical substances. Luckily, families can take precautions to avoid these potentially dangerous situations. Here are some tips on what you can change in the home to protect your family:
- Water heaters can be adjusted to a maximum temperature. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it to be set to a maximum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Always check the temperature of the water before bathing infants and children.
- Cook using the back burners of the stove and turn pot handles towards the back so children can’t grab or knock the pots off of the stove.
- Don’t wear long sleeves or baggy clothing while cooking.
- Cover electrical outlets with plastic covers to protect from accidental electric shocks.
- Store chemical cleaners and sprays out of reach of children.
- Make sure young children cannot reach the microwave and be sure to supervise children when cooking in a microwave.
- After heating food in a microwave, let the food cool down a bit and be sure to stir the food well before eating it to make sure there are not any hot areas.

What can I do to decrease the chance of a fire occurring at home?
Practice fire-safe habits to avoid unintended fires in the home:
* Don’t walk away from food while it’s cooking on the stove or in the oven.
* Make sure that liquids and items that can catch fire easily, including matches, are not stored near sources of heat or ignition.
* Keep matches and lighters away from children.
* Do not smoke indoors.
* Avoid plugging appliances into extension cords. Overloading extension cords can lead to fires or electrical shocks that can hurt others.

How can I get ahead?
Preparing your Home: Take some steps to prepare your home to be able to act swiftly in the event of a fire:
* Install smoke detectors and water sprinklers throughout the home.
* Test the detectors every month and change the batteries every six months.
* Place fire extinguishers in areas that are easily accessible during an emergency.
* Teach everyone in the home where the fire extinguishers are located and how to use them.
* If your home has a second story, it is a good idea to buy a safety ladder to escape.

What should I do in case of a fire? Building an escape plan:
It is equally as important to prepare an escape plan for your family in case of a fire emergency. Chat with your family members about the following:
- Make sure everyone knows that it is best to take the staircase instead of the elevator during a fire.
- Teach your children to avoid breathing in smoke by crawling to exits.
- Try to find at least 2 ways out of every room, in case one exit is blocked by fire or smoke.
- Explain the drill “Stop, Drop, and Roll” for cases where clothing catches fire.
- Establish a family meeting point outside so that children know where to go to find each other in the case of an emergency.
- Practice a family fire drill.

Post important emergency contact information in a visible place in your home. Include 911, the local fire department number, your home address and phone number, and an emergency contact. This is especially important if you have a babysitter or someone else watching your children when you are not home.

What happens if my child does get burned?
Ensure your own safety first! Then:
1. Immediately run cool water over the burned area to relieve pain. Do not use ice, butter, grease, powder or rub on the burned area - it may irritate, lead to blistering, and delay the healing process.
2. Cool any hot or smoking clothing by soaking in cool water, then remove clothing from the burned area. If the clothing is stuck to the skin do not pull on it, instead cut away as much clothing as possible.
3. If the burn is not oozing: cover gently with gauze or a clean, dry cloth.
4. If the burn is oozing: cover gently with gauze or a clean, dry cloth, then seek immediate medical attention.
Depending on the severity of the burn, a child may or may not need to be hospitalized. For burns managed at home, one may need to apply ointments and dressings regularly while monitoring for any signs of infection developing such as redness, swelling, bad smell, new discharge.

To learn about more pediatrician-approved ways to prevent burns, visit healthychildren.org or contact the Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Miami, a program supported by The Children’s Trust, at 305-243-9080 or InjuryFreeMiami.org.