Hey guys, today we are going to talk about burns, one of the most devastating types of preventable injuries in kids. Did you know that every year, nearly 4,000 deaths occur in the U.S. from fire and burn injuries? Each year, over a half million people are treated in the ER for burns and 25,000 get admitted to burn centers. Injury is the leading cause of death for children in the U.S., and fires and burns contribute significantly.
Burns are grouped into three major categories. First-degree burns damage only the outer layer of skin, while second-degree burns damage the outer layer and the layer underneath. Finally, third-degree burns damage or destroy the deepest layer of skin and tissues underneath. All burns can cause swelling, blistering, scarring, and, in severe cases, shock and even death. They also can lead to infections because they damage your skin’s protective barrier from bacteria. Today, we will address some of the major causes and, of course, some prevention strategies.
Be sure to put outlet covers on any electrical outlets within a child’s reach and throw out electrical cords that are frayed or damaged. If you use a space heater, then be sure there are no flammable objects near the heater itself, and be sure it’s turned off if you leave the house. Teach children to never go near a space heater or even to try to turn one on/off.
Ensure you store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet or where children can’t reach them, and never leave candles unattended. Blow them out when you leave the room!
Smoking is a leading cause of illness in addition to fires, burn injuries, and death. If you can, for your health and your child’s, stop smoking! If you cannot, then be sure not to smoke in bed and get rid of used cigarettes carefully.
Before putting a child, especially infants and toddlers, into a car seat, touch it to see how hot it is. Hot seatbelt straps or buckles can cause second-degree burns on small children, so cover the car seat with a towel when you park in the sun.
Keep children from playing near the stove or oven! Do not use a microwave oven to warm baby bottles. The liquid may heat up unevenly and scald your baby’s mouth! Be sure to unplug hot irons, such as clothes or curling irons, and keep them up on a counter out of a child’s reach. Monitor kids near open flames and never leave them alone near fires, bathtub, or hot stove.
What about hot water burns? First, set the temperature on your water heater to 120º F or use the “low-medium” setting. Any water set hotter than this can cause burns in two to three seconds! Test the water temperature yourself before your children get into the tub or shower, and don’t let young children touch the faucet handles during a bath. Make sure you turn the handles of pots and pans toward the side of the stove, or even better, use the back burners of the stove. Use extra precaution when carrying hot liquids near kids, and don’t allow kids to carry them for you.
Finally, smoke detectors have been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of death and injuries from fires! Be sure to test your fire alarms twice yearly and ensure all sheets and curtains are made of flame-retardant materials. Lastly, have a family plan in case of a fire in your house so everyone can get out and meet in the same place!
Robert L. Rux, M.D. is a Board Certified Pediatrician at Magnolia Springs Pediatrics. Originally from Mobile, he attended medical school at The University of Alabama School of Medicine (UAB) and completed residency at The Children’s Hospital of Alabama (UAB).