Preventing Burn Injuries in the Home
Burn injuries are one of the most painful types of personal harm and can have devastating scarring for the victim, which in a large portion of incidences are children, blemishing them for life. Many children and adults are harmed every year in their home. These are accidents that involve exposure to fire, heat, electricity and heat producing instruments.
In numerous incidences in the home causing this kind of harm can be prevented and younger children are the most likely to be hurt from scald burns. Children who are older are more often hurt by direct contact with fire known as flame burns. Either of these types of harm are painful, can be debilitating and result in scaring or disfigurement. There are some helpful tips to help prevent burns to children and adults in the home, since many of these kinds of incidences are preventable.
Creating a Safe Home Environment
- There are some ways to ensure a home is safer for the family and to reduce the hazard of burn injury or fire.
- Homes with young children should have matches or lighters in a safe place where the child cannot reach them.
- Candles and incense should never be left unattended in a room.
- Cigarettes should be carefully put out and ashtrays should not immediately be emptied into the garbage.
- Harmful chemicals and cleaners should always be stored where children do not have access to them.
- Clothing irons, hair curling irons or straighteners and other appliances of this nature should not be left plugged in when not in use.
- Barbecue grills should be cleaned to reduce grease buildup that could result in a grease fire and children should always be kept away from this appliance when in use. Grills can be hot on the outside, as well as the gas flames or charcoal briquettes and they may be able to be tipped over.
- Smoke alarms in the home are essential and should be kept in proper working order to protect the home and family.
- Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home and located near sleeping areas.
- Monthly tests of smoke alarms should be conducted to ensure they work correctly and if battery operated the battery is in working condition.
- Battery operated smoke alarms should have the alkaline battery replaced once a year or if the monthly testing shows the battery is not in optimum condition.
- Smoke alarms using lithium batteries should be replaced once a year.
- Smoke alarm units should be replaced in the home once every ten years due to general wear and it is possible for the condition of the alarm protection to be reduced over time.
Testing Smoke Alarms
Testing of smoke alarms should be done on a monthly basis throughout the home. In the event the battery on a smoke detector is in need of being replaced the alarm will alert the family by sounding a short beep once every sixty seconds. This is done as a safety measure when the battery power in the alarm is low and the battery requires replacing.
- Kitchens are one of the most dangerous rooms in the home for burn injuries and one of the leading causes of house fires occurs during cooking.
- Do not permit young children to play near the stove, especially when it is in use.
- When cooking ensure that pot handles are turned inward, rather than facing the front of the stovetop. This can protect young children from pulling pots or pans from the stove resulting in scald burns.
- Do not leave cooking or hot food on the stovetop unattended.
- Microwaves have helped in reducing cooking time, but should not be used in heating baby bottles. The liquid in the bottle may heat unevenly and cause scald burns in the infant’s mouth and throat.
- Clothing with loose long sleeves should not be worn when cooking as they could pose a fire danger near stovetop burners.
- Cooking areas near the stove should be kept free from oven mitts, towels, paper towels and other flammable products.
• Tablecloths can create a dangerous situation when younger children are in the home. A child pulling the tablecloth can be injured or even burned if hot foods are on the table.
- If a small fire starts on a stovetop it is possible to put it out by placing a pan lid overtop of the flames to reduce the oxygen the fire requires to burn.
- Baking soda can also be used as a way to extinguish small fires, especially when caused by grease or oil.
- Never use water on a stovetop fire that has been caused by grease or oil as this can cause it to spread, rather than extinguishing the flames. Instead use a fire extinguisher or baking soda on this type of fire.
There are some simple measures that can be taken to reduce the chance of electrical burns in the home for young children and adults.
- Covering electrical outlets that are not in use with covers can prevent young children from electrical burns.
- Any appliances, lamps, irons or other items that have damaged or frayed cords should be either repaired or replaced.
Heaters and Fireplaces
The use of space heaters, fireplaces and electrical fireplaces is common during the cold months of the year and can pose a danger to young children.
- Young children should be monitored around space heaters, fireplaces and electrical fireplaces and taught they can be dangerous.
- When using a real fireplace a fire guard should be securely fixed in place to prevent young children from getting near the flames and to prevent sparks from causing fires near the location of the fireplace.
Away From Home
Burn injuries can happen in a variety of ways including in the car and outside locations. Knowing what to watch for to prevent this kind of injury can reduce the risk for family members and young children.
Children should never be left alone in a vehicle and prior to placing a child in a seatbelt or car seat the metal buckles, straps and even seats can be hot enough to cause injury. If the vehicle is parked in a location with direct sun a towel can be used to protect the child from hot seats.
Children are always at risk of being hurt when outside, but burn injury harm can be prevented using caution.
- Children and adults should always use sunscreen as protection from the sun that can cause burn injury and should be reapplied as necessary.
- Children should wear shoes when outside to prevent burns to the feat, since pavement, sand and other surfaces can be extremely hot during the summer months.
- Fireworks are dangerous for children and adults and children should always be supervised when fireworks are in use.
There are also scenarios that come up that are unusual, unanticipated, or what would be considered acts of god. In any event, most burns are preventable and knowing how to prevent or mitigate a burn risk, is the key to survival.
Preventing Burns in the Elderly – UNC Health Care (EJ Grant – 2013)
Antibiotic prophylaxis for preventing burn wound infection – National Center for Biotechnology Information (LA Barajas-Nava – 2013)
Scald Injury Prevention – American Burn Association