Burning Questions - #Child Safety

Feb 28, 2020, 00:00 AM by UTMB Pediatrics


One of the huge challenges of parenthood is trying to keep your child safe. 

Young children are especially prone to sustaining a burn accidentally.  The risk of being burned is directly tied to the developmental skills of children.  Children under the age of 6 years are at highest risk because they do not understand the consequences of touching something hot such as a heated stove top or steaming hot water from a faucet.  The world is their playground, and they naturally trust that it will not hurt them.

Even the most vigilant parent can be briefly distracted from their child for a moment.  In that brief moment when the text message begs to be read or a friend seeks a response a toddler can decide to chew on a frayed electric cord or stick a car key in an electric outlet!

Injuries from hot water are especially prevalent in young children.  The lever-type faucet fixtures can be particularly problematic because a tiny movement of the lever may produce a large change in water temperature.  Always keep a barrier between a child under 6 and a lever control for baths and sinks, and consider replacing those bath fixtures with knobs.

The following tips may be helpful in preventing burn injuries:

Measure the hottest water that can come from your tap after running for 2-3 minutes.  Keep it below 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You should set your water heater to help make sure the water does not go above this temperature.

Never allow a young child to use the microwave, or to take heated food from the microwave.

Use plug covers for electric outlets.  Do not use frayed or worn extension cords, or leave “live” cords plugged in to the outlet. Also be sure not to overload electrical circuits. Unplug electrical devices when they are not in use.

Never, never, never leave a young child unattended in the bath.  Young children love to mimic their parents, and may decide to turn the hot water tap to test their skills.  Aside from the risk of burns, young children can slip in the tub and fall, drowning in just a few inches of water.

Use sunscreen of at least SPF 30 when going outside. Allow 30 minutes for it to fully be effective and reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating.

Place hot items where children can not reach them.  Pot handles should be turned away from the edge of the stove.

Some chemicals can burn (or poison) your child whether touched or ingested.  Lock them up!

Finally, it is a terrible tragedy when a child is intentionally burned in a moment of anger.  If you leave your child with another caretaker, even if it is someone you love, but SURE that they are have appropriate developmental expectations for your child.  Infants cry and spit up, and only cool cloths should be used to cleanse the mess.  Toddlers love to climb into bathtubs, and care must be taken to be certain the water is only luke-warm.  And finally, young children have toileting accidents.  Punishment for toileting accidents is not likely to speed toilet training, and immersing a child in hot water to clean the mess or produce discomfort as punishment is inappropriate and dangerous, and tragically, a common cause of inflicted injury.  Choose your caretakers wisely!

Blog written by:
Patricia Beach, M.D., Professor - General Pediatrics
Hannah O'Donohoe, M.D., Assistant Professor - General Pediatrics
Feb 24, 2020

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