This is a tough topic to write about, but a far tougher experience when a family goes through seeing their child burned in an accident.  Eighty percent of burn injuries occur in and around our homes.  Most of the time, the victims of these accidents are small children.  And, most of the time, those accidents were preventable.  Anyone who has raised children can verify that you can’t turn your back on a toddler.  

There are five national organizations – the International Association of Fire Fighters Burn Foundation, the American Burn Association Burn Prevention Committee, the Federation of Burn Foundations, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the Home Safety Council (now merged with Safe Kids Worldwide) – who have joined forces to create  National Scald Prevention.  This campaign focuses on the high -risk population 0-4 years of age and the senior population.  Also, the Shriners Hospitals for Children has begun its annual Burn Prevention Campaign.  As we said, homes are the sites of thousands of burn injuries to children every year, including scalds and fire-related injuries.  By following basic safety tips, many of these incidents would not have happened.  Shriners Hospitals for Children changes lives every day through innovative pediatric care, world-class research and outstanding medical education.  Twenty-two hospitals in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada provide advanced care for children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. 

One type of fire injury that toddlers and children suffer is from touching the glass front of a gas fireplace.  FairWarning report published in 2011 revealed that more than 2,000 children ages 5 and younger have suffered burns from fireplace glass since 1999, according to a federal estimate; however, some burn specialists think the actual toll is higher.  Children’s Hospital Colorado Burn Center reports:

  •          Contact with the glass of gas fireplace doors can result in second or third degree burns.
  •          Burns of the hand can result in hand dysfunction causing long term impairment and disability.
  •          Treatment of burns of the hand are time intensive, costly, painful, and can require long term therapy of the hand.
  •          The glass barrier of a gas fireplace door can heat up to more than 200 degrees F in approximately 6 minutes. 

Every year there are approximately 25,000 burn injuries resulting from scalds.  These injuries are very painful and require prolonged treatment.  The majority of scald injuries are related to hot tap water and cooking accidents.  These are places where we adults have the most control. Adequate and continuous supervision is the most effective way to prevent young children from receiving scald burns.  

The kitchen is the place where children under five are at the highest risk for burns caused by hot fluids.  We must teach our children/grandchildren under age five to not play around the stove or microwave.  Tablecloths and place mats are tempting for children to pull on, which could also cause a spill of hot foods.  Next, the bathroom is the second highest risk area for scald burn injuries in the home.  The temperature of the water that comes from the water heater should be set at a maximum of 120 degrees F.  To test bath water, submerge the hand, spread the fingers and move the hand vigorously in the water.  If the water is uncomfortable to the hand, it is too hot for a child.  Young children’s skin is thinner that adults, therefore there is an increased risk of scalding. 

Children should never be left unattended around burning candles.  Cigarettes, lighters, and other incendiary products should never be where a toddler can get to them.  There could be nothing worse than the guilt of leaving something around where curious little fingers could pick them up and injury occurred.  These tips are also directed to those who care for or are responsible for senior citizens that may be at the point of being left unattended in their homes.  Hundreds of seniors have been seriously burned, or even worse, because they simply forgot that they left something cooking on their stove, until it was too late.  They may not be able to take responsibility for themselves.  Their personal safety should be the responsibility of a close family member, or close friend.  If they have no one to check on them or a caregiver, neighbors should call Family Protective Services or another local organization that can follow up to ensure their safety. 

Please observe Burn Awareness not just this week, but all year long.  Watch out for our “little citizens” and “senior citizens.”