Basic burns prevention
Supervision is the only reliable way to prevent accidents with things that burn.
Always supervise children in the kitchen, around hot surfaces like stoves, ovens, microwaves, heaters, irons and other appliances, and around outside hazards like barbecues, camp fires and exhaust pipes.
Seek immediate medical help from a doctor, hospital or medical centre if a child’s burn 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. See more in our burns first aid article and illustrated guide to burns first aid.
Preventing burns indoors
You can prevent burns indoors by being aware of common risks and avoiding them.
- 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
- Securely attach guards around heaters to discourage children from standing too close.
- Securely attach 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 ovens and heaters.
- Keep clothes and toys at least 1 m away from heaters.
- Use placemats rather than tablecloths. If children tug on a tablecloth, it can bring hot food and drinks down on top of them.
- 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 to understand that they burn.
- Don’t use electric blankets on children’s beds. Your child might be at risk of electrocution if he wets the bed. Babies and small children can also overheat or electric blankets can catch on fire if they’re 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 once children are in bed. Once children are old enough to get out of bed by themselves, take heaters out of bedrooms. If it’s a cold night, you can dress your child in more layers or use more blankets to keep your child warm.
- 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 regularly, 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
- Brace or support gas heaters on patios so they can’t topple over.
- Don’t use accelerants like petrol and kerosene to light fires.
- 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.
- Only use water to put out barbecue and camp fires, and rake ashes so they lose their heat more quickly. Embers, coals and ashes can stay hot for up to eight hours after the fire has been buried under dirt or sand.
- Supervise children around camp fires, and don’t let children walk around camp sites barefoot.
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.