State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said, “February 3-9, 2019 is Burn Awareness Week. Children under 5 are more likely to suffer burn injuries than any other age group. Hot liquid burns, or scalds, are the leading cause of burns to children under five and to seniors over 65.”
This year’s theme from the American Burn Association is “It Can Happen in a Flash with a Splash”. It underscores how hot liquids can burn like fire. In 2018, 45% of all burns reported to the Massachusetts Burn Injury Reporting System (M-BIRS) were scalds. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of the burns to children under 5 were caused by hot liquids such as tap water, drinks, cooking liquids, and steam.
Tap Water Safety
Last July, a 2-month old Fall River girl suffered burns on one-quarter of her body from tap water in the bathtub. It takes only one second for water at 155˚F to cause a third degree burn.
- Set your hot water heater to 125˚F or less. Massachusetts law requires a temperature between 110˚F and 130˚F.
- Supervise young children in the bath and face them away from faucets. Babies and toddlers can turn on hot water when you turn your back.
- Use a thermometer to test the water coming out of your bath water tap.
- Run your hand through bath water to test for hot spots.
Hot Drink Safety
In August, a 1-year old North Adams boy suffered burns to 20% of his body when he pulled a large cup of coffee onto himself.
- Never hold or carry a child while you have a hot drink in your hand. A wiggling baby can cause a spill on himself or on you.
- Consider using a “travel mug” with a tight fitting lid to prevent or minimize spills.
- Keep hot drinks and soups away from the edge of tables and counters and avoid using tablecloths and placemats. Putting them in the center of the table keeps them away from curious fingers.
Children often suffer burns when they get under foot when someone is cooking. Keep children away from the stove when cooking by using a safety gate, high chair or playpen for younger children and marking with tape a 3-foot “no-kid zone” for older children. Teach them to keep “3 giant steps” away from the stove to keep themselves safe. You can prevent spills and other burns by using back burners and turning pot handles toward the back of the stove so children cannot pull them down.
Last summer, an 80-year old man on Cape Cod suffered significant burns when he spilled hot tomato soup onto himself. Scalds caused 40% of burns to older adults in 2018. Other tips to prevent burns in the kitchen include:
- Use oven mitts when cooking or handling hot food and drinks.
- Stir and test food cooked in the microwave before serving. Open heated containers away from you from back to front to prevent steam burns.
The Massachusetts Burn Injury Reporting System is a joint program between the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Department of Fire Services. All burns affecting 5% or more of the body surface area must be reported by physicians and hospitals to the Department of Fire Services. In addition to being a tool for law enforcement to catch arsonists, it is a powerful injury prevention tool for health educators and policy makers.