By Raising Children Network
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Child's hand under running water credit iStockphotos.com/g215

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Cool a burn under running water for 20 minutes.
 
Burns prevention depends on keeping your child away from fire and hot surfaces and supervising him closely whenever he’s near things that can burn. It’s also critical to know basic first aid for burns.

Basic burns prevention

Your child has no way of knowing that an exhaust pipe, an iron or any other hot surface can hurt and burn, or that hot water can burn in the same way fires can.

Supervision is the only reliable way to prevent accidents with things that burn.

So safety rule number one is to watch your child constantly – especially around stoves, ovens, microwaves, heaters and other appliances.

Seek immediate medical help from a doctor, hospital or medical centre if a child’s burn or scald is the size of a 20-cent piece or larger, if the burned skin looks raw, angry or blistered, or if the pain persists or is severe. Call an ambulance if the burn is larger than the size of the child’s hand, or is on the face, neck or genitals. 

Preventing burns indoors

You can prevent burns indoors by being aware of common risks and avoiding them.

Kitchen
  • Teach your children to stay out of the kitchen when you’re cooking. Avoid leaving the kitchen unattended if you’re using pots and pans, toasters, sandwich presses, slow cookers and rice cookers.
  • Keep children’s play areas away from your kitchen.
  • Use the back burners on the stove first. Turn handles on pots and pans towards the back of the stove.
  • Install a guard around the hot plates on your stove.
  • Ensure kettle cords don’t hang down within reach of your child. Use appliances with short cords.

Living and family areas

  • Install guards around heaters to discourage children from standing too close.
  • Install a fixed fire guard around any open fires, smouldering ashes, or electric or gas heaters.
  • Save ironing for after your children are asleep. You could also put your children – or yourself! – in a playpen while you iron.
  • Install cool-to-touch heaters.
  • Keep clothes and toys at least 1 m away from heaters.
  • Use placemats rather than tablecloths. If children tug on the tablecloth, it can bring hot food and drinks down on top of them.

Bedrooms

  • Buy children close-fitting nightwear and dressing gowns with ‘low fire danger’ labels.
  • Try to keep bedside lamps and light bulbs out of reach, or unplugged, until your child is old enough (about three years) to understand that they burn.
  • Avoid electric blankets. Electric blankets that malfunction or that aren’t used properly can cause serious burns. Babies and small children can also overheat if electric blankets are set too high, or if grown-ups forget to turn them off.
  • If you use heaters in your children’s bedrooms, turn the heaters off or to a very low setting once children are in bed. Once children are old enough to get out of bed by themselves, take heaters out of bedrooms.

General

  • Babies and children can be scalded by hot drinks. Don’t have hot drinks when nursing a baby. When you’re drinking a hot drink, you might want to put your baby in a playpen. And make sure you put your cup well out of older children’s reach – the centre of the table is usually good.
  • To guard against accidents with hot water – such as dishwater and bathwater  – turn down your hot water thermostat. Ensure bathroom water is delivered at a maximum 50ºC to prevent serious scalds.
  • Always supervise children carefully around any naked flames, like open fires, gas burners, incense burners and candles.
  • Lock matches and cigarette lighters up high and out of reach, and always smoke out of the house and away from children. This also reduces your child’s exposure to harmful second-hand smoke.
Fires can start as a result of cooking accidents, smouldering cigarettes, electrical faults, candles, incense and children playing with lighters and matches. Find out what you can do to prevent house fires. You can also develop and practise a plan in case there’s a fire in your home.

Preventing burns outdoors

You can prevent burns outdoors by being aware of common risks and avoiding them.

Outdoor cooking and heating

  • Keep a close watch on children while your barbecue is heating up, being used or cooling down. Some barbecues can keep their heat for hours. Use water to put out embers and briquettes, and rake ashes so they lose their heat more quickly.
  • Brace or support gas heaters on patios so they can’t topple over.
  • Campfire embers, coals and ashes can stay hot for up to eight hours after the fire has been buried under dirt or sand.

Other outdoor burn hazards

  • Keep children away from exhaust pipes on cars and motor bikes. Exhaust pipes are easy to reach and can cause serious burns. 
  • Check whether seatbelt buckles have heated up when the weather is hot. 
  • Lock away tools like blow torches and soldering irons.
  • Keep lawnmowers away from children during and after use. Lawnmowers keep their heat for several minutes after you’ve used them.
  • In hot weather, check metal playground equipment, especially slides. They can get hot enough to burn a child.

    Bushfires can be a risk, particularly when people try to outrun them in cars or on foot. Read the Country Fire Authority’s Fire Ready Kit if there’s a chance of a bushfire in your area. 

    First aid for burns

    If you’re not sure how severe a burn is, contact a doctor, hospital or medical centre immediately.

    Otherwise, take the following first aid steps:

    1. Make sure the area is safe, and that there’s no further risk of injury. Take the child to a safe place if possible.
    2. Take off the child’s clothing immediately, but only if it’s not stuck to the skin. Remove any watches or jewellery the child is wearing, but only if you can do it without causing any more pain or injury.
    3. Treat the burn with water only. Cool the burned area under running water for 20 minutes. This will reduce tissue damage and pain. This is useful for up to three hours after the burn. Hold the child to provide comfort.
    4. Cover the burn with a loose, light, non-sticky dressing like plastic wrap or a clean, wet cloth. Raise burned limbs.
    5. Cool the burn, but keep your child warm.

    Call an ambulance if:

    • the burn is to the face, airway, hands or genitals
    • the burn is larger than the size of the child’s hand.

    Go to a doctor, hospital or medical centre if:

    • the burn or scald is the size of a 20-cent piece or larger
    • the burn is deep, even if the child doesn’t feel any pain
    • the burn looks raw, angry or blistered
    • the pain persists or is severe
    • you’re not sure how bad the burn is.
    You might like to check out our illustrated guide to first aid for burns and scalds. You could print it out and stick it up somewhere easy to see.

    Things not to do with burns

    • Don’t peel off any clothing that’s stuck to the burn. Don’t break any blisters.
    • Don’t apply ice, iced water, lotions, moisturisers, oil, ointments, creams or powders to the burn. These will only need to be removed to treat the burn properly. Butter or flour can make the damage worse.
    • If the burn is large, don’t cool it for longer than 20 minutes. This is because hypothermia can happen quickly in children.
     
     
     
    • Last updated or reviewed 16-02-2016