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Burn Injury Prevention

In 2013, at least 450,000 people were treated for burn injuries at hospitals and emergency rooms– many more at clinics, community health centers, minor emergency clinics and physicians’ offices.

  • 72 percent of admissions to burn centers result from accidents at home
  • Burns are responsible for approximately 3,400 deaths each year
  • According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics, burns and fires are the third leading cause of death in the home
  • Children, the elderly and people with disabilities are at highest risk

Burn injuries - minor or serious - can happen quickly and without forewarning. A few simple and effective precautions, however, can ensure your family’s health and safety.

Cooking Safety

Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and burn injuries.

  • Don’t leave food cooking on the stove unattended
  • Use a potholder or oven mitt to handle hot pots and pans
  • Don’t cook when you have taken medication that makes you drowsy or slows your reflexes
  • In case of a cooking fire, use a lid to smother the flames. Don’t try to put it out with a towel or oven mitt
  • Be extra cautious when cooking with grease. Grease in a deep fat cooker can reach temperatures higher than 400 degrees, causing serious burns in less than a second
  • Don’t ever pour water on a grease fire
  • When lifting lids, tilt the cover away from your face and hands in case steam has accumulated in the pan. When microwaving foods, puncture plastic wrap or use vented containers that allow steam to escape
  • Because microwaved foods and liquids may reach temperatures greater than boiling without bubbling, be sure to stir and test food before serving or eating
  • Avoid wearing clothes with long or baggy sleeves that could catch on fire
  • Don’t try to move a hot cooking pot or pan that is heavier than you can safely lift

Burn and Scald Safety for Children

Scald burns are the leading cause of burn injury to children under the age of four.

At bath time:

  • Set your water heater temperature no higher than 120°F
  • Don't allow young children to adjust bath water temperature and seat them facing away from faucets
  • Don’t leave children alone in the tub; this is important in preventing drowning as well as scalding

In and near the kitchen:

  • Make areas near stoves, ovens and hot appliances “off limits” to young children
  • Cook on back burners whenever possible and keep handles facing away from the edge of the cooktop
  • Don’t set hot items such as soup, ramen noodles, coffee, tea, and hot tap water on tablecloths or placemats, near the edges of counters or tables, or on low coffee or end tables
  • Keep cords for cooking appliances (griddles, slow cookers, etc.) on top of counters and away from children’s reach
  • Allow your children to use cooking appliances only when they become tall enough to reach cooking surfaces safely and can understand safe cooking practices

Home Fires

  • Make sure each member of the family understands what to do in case fire breaks out in your home. Map out an escape plan with at least two ways to exit and practice it periodically with your children
  • Install smoke alarms on each floor of your home. Be sure to test them monthly and replace the batteries every six months
  • Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from any heat source such as space heaters, heater vents or candles
  • Turn off portable heaters when you are not in the room and when you are asleep
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children
  • Check appliance cords periodically to make sure they are not loose or frayed. If they are, replace the appliance
  • Don’t ever store gasoline in the house or garage. When transporting gasoline, make sure it is in an approved container
  • Never try to heat your home using a stove, oven or open-flame burner (such as a charcoal grill)
  • If a fire breaks out, don’t try to open a closed door if the handles or door are warm

Campfires and Fire Pits

  • Build a campfire at least 15 feet away from your tent, preferably downwind. Don’t light one if it conditions are dry or if it is extremely windy
  • Don’t use gasoline or any other type of accelerant to start an outdoor fire
  • Keep your fire small and easily contained. Make sure you have water readily available to put it out
  • Don’t ever leave a campfire or fire pit unattended
  • Keep children upwind and at least four feet from the fire
  • Ash-covered embers and fire pits remain hot long after the fire is extinguished - sometimes as long as 12 hours. Don’t assume that the area is safely cool when nothing appears to be burning

When a Burn Injury Occurs

  • Stop the burn process with cool - not cold - water
  • Remove clothing and jewelry around the burned area and cover it loosely with clean bandages
  • Do not apply ointment, butter, oil, toothpaste, or any household remedy to a severe burn
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible

This information is provided by Memorial Hermann Hospital to help you and your loved ones avoid burn injury. In case of a serious burn, you should consult a physician for treatment.

Source: American Burn Association