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Preventing Burns and Scalds

Burns and scalds are a leading cause of serious injury in young children – and being mobile and keen to explore everything around them makes toddlers particularly vulnerable to this type of injury.

Burns and scalds

The most common causes of burns in young children are scalds from things such as hot drinks and foods, steam or hot liquids, and contact burns from hot objects such as heaters and flames. Burns can also be caused by friction, certain chemicals and electricity.

All burns can potentially be serious in young children. A toddler’s skin is delicate and more sensitive than an adult’s which means it burns more quickly and more deeply at lower temperatures. It only takes a second for a hot liquid at 60oC to cause serious third-degree burns to a child’s skin.  Almost 80% of serious burns and scalds occur in the home – and most are preventable – so it’s important to make your home as safe as possible  and always supervise your toddler especially when they are in the kitchen or bathroom.

Tips for keeping your toddler safe

To help reduce the risk of your toddler being burnt or scalded at home here are a few simple steps you can take:

In the kitchen

  • Keep your little one away from hot food and liquids  – try using a safety gate to keep them out of the kitchen while you’re cooking or placing them in a playpen or highchair for a short time
  • Keep the kettle and its cord away from the edge of the bench and out of your toddler’s reach – keeping the kettle empty when not in use may also help prevent any potential scalding accidents
  • Turn pan handles towards the back of the stove to prevent little hands grabbing them – try to use the hotplates at the back of the stove first
  • Don’t hold your toddler while preparing or drinking a hot drink,  – also take care when walking near your toddler if you are carrying hot food or drinks.

In the bathroom

  • The bathroom is a very dangerous place for a toddler with most scalds from hot water occurring here – along with falls and drownings – which makes it very important that they are always kept under an adult’s watchful eye during bath time
  • The recommended maximum shower or bath water temperature for young children is between 37oC and 38oC – so make sure you run the cold water first and then the hot water and always test the water temperature is safe before letting your child get in
  • Make sure the temperature of the water from your hot water taps is not above 50oC.

To find out more, read our article: Bath Time Safety.

Around the home

  • Never let your toddler sit too close to a fire or heater. Install a securely fixed fire guard around open fires and heaters, and choose ‘low fire danger’ labelled nightwear to help keep them safer
  • Damaged or frayed electrical cords should be thrown away or replaced and electrical outlets covered so that little fingers can’t reach them. Unplug electrical appliances that heat up such as irons and curling tongues, and keep them out of your toddler’s reach
  • Remember to store matches and lighters away out of reach of curious toddlers and never leave candles unattended.

Be prepared

Accidents do happen, so it’s important to be prepared and know what to do just in case your toddler gets burnt or scalded:

  • As soon as you can, hold the burn under cool running water for 20 minutes only
  • Don’t apply ice, iced water, creams or powders
  • Remove clothing and any jewellery not stuck to the burn
  • Apply a clean dressing or cling film.

Seek immediate medical help if the burn or scald is on your child’s face, hands, feet, genitals, bottom or throat (or airway), is larger than a 20-cent coin or is blistered – or appears concerning and you’re unsure of its severity.


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