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Child Life Corner: Preventing Burns in Kids

Blog Child Life Corner: Preventing Burns in Kids

Toddlers are very curious about the world. Their increasing independence and exploration, combined with the fact that they are still developing control of their bodies, can sometimes be a perfect storm for accidents.


 Certified Child Life Specialist Krista Hauswald

As a Child Life Specialist who has worked in the Burn Center at Riley Hospital for Children for six years, I have seen numerous burn injuries. Most people think of a burn unit and assume that the majority of the patients we see have been burned by house fires. However, our team tends to see burns caused by things most people would never think of. The vast majority of these burn injuries are scald burns with a great number of them caused by one of the most popular convenience foods around: noodle soup. These products, which are easy enough for children to make, are often the reason we have patients admitted to our unit with injuries. Imagine this scenario: you pop the product into the microwave for 3 minutes (or more) as indicated by the package, but when you reach in to take it out, the item is very hot. As an adult, you would remove the bowl carefully using oven mitts or another protective device, but when a child, who is reaching up to the microwave, touches the hot item, the unexpected heat of the bowl often causes them to drop it, inevitably spilling the hot liquid on themselves, creating serious burns. 

Accidents can happen quickly. That morning cup of hot coffee sitting on your kitchen table can be very tempting to your toddler and cause a serious burn. Scalds happen when toddlers tip or pull down cups of hot coffee, tea, bowls of soup, or other hot liquids. Toddlers are very curious about the world. Their increasing independence and exploration, combined with the fact that they are still developing control of their bodies, can sometimes be a perfect storm for accidents. They like to explore and learn through cause and effect. Transporting hot grease or liquids with a toddler underfoot can also be a recipe for disaster.  Always make sure to put things that could cause harm to your child well out of reach.

Camping is another activity which can lead to burn injuries. Children can easily trip and fall into fire pits, and even ashes can contain hot embers that can cause burns. Before lighting a campfire, be sure to check that aerosol cans or other potentially explosive items are not in the fire pit. Always make sure to properly extinguish any fires to make sure hot embers do not remain.  Children should always be well supervised around campfires and sit far enough away that they can’t accidentally fall in. Make sure children are well prepared should a crisis occur: Teach them how to stop, drop, and roll. 

Burn injuries caused by heaters and fireplaces can be common during winter. To prevent your child from getting burned, use a fireplace screen or place a protective gate around hot-to-the-touch areas or items.

The flammability of children’s clothing is another factor to be carefully considered. Children should always stand at least three feet away from heaters and fireplaces. The reason: In addition to catching fire, some fabric and materials can melt and stick to a child’s skin causing complex burns. Remember that heaters and fireplaces stay hot for quite some time after they have been turned off or extinguished and can still be a danger to children. 

In addition to regularly checking your smoke alarms, please consider some of these helpful tips above for fire safety and burn prevention.

Please contact ChildLifeRiley@IUHealth.org if you have questions about how the child life department at Riley may be able to help your child.

-- By Caitlin Dougherty, CCLS
   Certified Child Life Specialist
   Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health

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