From overly hot faucets to tipped-over coffee cups, burns are a
potential hazard in every home. In fact, burns - especially scalds
from hot water and liquids - are some of the most common childhood
accidents. Babies and young children are especially susceptible -
they're curious, small, and have sensitive skin that needs
Here are some important ways to protect your child from burns -
as well as electrical shocks and household fires - in your
Plan Ahead, Just In Case
- Make a fire escape plan with two ways out of the house, plus
a designated meeting place once out of the house. Practice the
fire escape plan regularly.
- Keep an emergency ladder on upper floors of your home in the
event of a fire. Keep the ladder in or near the room of an adult
or older child capable of using it.
- Make sure you have a smoke alarm on every level of your home
and in each bedroom. Test smoke alarms monthly and remember to
change the batteries twice a year.
- Install a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and know how to
- Put child-safety covers on all electrical outlets.
- Get rid of equipment and appliances with old or frayed cords
and extension cords that look damaged.
- Bind excess cord from lamps or other electrical equipment
with a twist-tie to prevent injury from chewing on cords. You can
also purchase a holder or spool specially designed to hide extra
- Position television and stereo equipment against walls so
small hands don't have access to the back surfaces or
- Make sure all wires to seasonal lighting, such as holiday
tree lights, are properly insulated (for example, make sure they
don't have exposed or broken wiring). Bind any excess cord
and unplug lights when they're not in use.
- Check electronic toys frequently for signs of wear and tear;
any object that sparks, feels hot, or smells unusual must be
repaired or discarded immediately.
- Choose sleepwear that's labeled flame-retardant (either
polyester or treated cotton). Cotton sweatshirts or pants that
aren't labeled as sleepwear generally aren't
- Make sure older children are especially careful when using
irons or curling irons.
- Make sure any nightlights aren't touching fabric like
bedspreads or curtains.
- Keep electric space heaters at least 3 feet (91 centimeters)
from beds, curtains, or anything flammable.
- If you use a humidifier or vaporizer, use a cool-mist model
rather than a hot-steam one.
- Screen fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Radiators and
electric baseboard heaters may need to be screened as well.
- Make sure to have all chimneys cleaned regularly.
- Clean the clothes dryer vent of lint after each use.
- Don't use fireworks or sparklers.
- Keep matches, lighters, chemicals, and lit candles out of
your child's reach.
- Don't smoke inside, especially when you are tired, taking
medication that can cause you to be drowsy, or in bed.
- Don't run electrical wires under rugs or carpet.
- Don't overload electrical sockets.
- Set the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120Âº
Fahrenheit (49Âº Celsius) or lower, or use the "low-medium
setting" - a child can be scalded in 2 to 3 seconds in water
only 5 degrees higher. If you're unable to control the water
temperature (if you live in an apartment, for example), install
an antiscald device, which is relatively inexpensive and easily
installed by you or a plumber.
- Always test bath water with your elbow before putting your
child in it.
- Always turn the cold water on first and turn it off last when
running water in the bathtub or sink.
- Face your child away from the faucet or fixtures so they are
less likely to play with them or accidentally turn on the hot
- Unplug all bathroom appliances (hair dryers, curling irons,
electric razors) when not in use.
- Ideally, you should install grounded circuit breakers in the
- Don't let a child use a walker in the kitchen (the
American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages the use of
- Don't drink hot beverages or soup with a child sitting on
your lap, or carry hot liquids or dishes around your child. If
you have to walk with hot liquid in the kitchen (like a pot of
soup or cup of coffee), make sure you know where your child is so
you don't trip over him or her.
- Don't hold a baby or small child while cooking.
- Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove every time you
- Block access to the stove as much as possible. (It's a
good idea to install a stove lock and stove knob locks.)
- Don't warm baby bottles in a microwave. The liquid may
heat unevenly, resulting in pockets of hot breast milk or formula
that can scald your baby's mouth.
- Keep hot drinks and foods out of reach of children.
- Avoid using tablecloths or large placemats. A small child can
pull on them and overturn a hot drink or plate of food.
- Unplug all kitchen appliances when not in use and keep cords
far from reach.
Outside/In the Car
- Use playground equipment with caution. If it's very hot
outside, use the equipment only in the morning, after it's
had a chance to cool down during the night.
- Remove your child's safety seat or stroller from the hot
sun when not in use because children can get burns from hot vinyl
and metal. If you must leave your car seat or stroller in the
sun, cover it with a blanket or towel.
- Before leaving your parked car on a hot day, hide the
seatbelts' metal latch plates in the seats to prevent the sun
from hitting them directly.
Whether you're expecting a baby or you already have a child,
it's a good idea to:
- Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the Heimlich
- Keep the following near the phone (for yourself and
- toll-free poison-control number: (800) 222-1222
- child's doctor's number
- parents' work and cell phone numbers
- neighbor's or nearby relative's number (if you need
someone to watch other children in an emergency)
- Make a first-aid kit and keep emergency instructions
- Teach your children how and when to call 911 or other
emergency numbers for help.
- Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
Maintaining a Safe, Kid-Friendly Environment
To check your childproofing efforts, get down on your hands and
knees in every room of your home to see things from a child's
perspective. Be aware of your child's surroundings and what
might be potentially dangerous.
Completely childproofing your home can be difficult. If you
can't childproof the entire house, you can shut the doors (and
install doorknob covers) to any room a child shouldn't enter to
prevent wandering into places that haven't been properly
childproofed. For sliding doors, doorknob covers and childproof
locks are also great for keeping little ones from leaving your
home. Of course, how much or how little you childproof your home is
up to you. Supervision is the very best way to help prevent kids
from getting injured. However, even the most vigilant parent
can't keep a child 100% safe at all times.
Whether you have a baby, toddler, or school-age child, your home
should be a haven where your little one can explore safely.
After all, touching, holding, climbing, and exploring are the
activities that develop your child's body and mind.
Mary Mondozzi, MSN, RN, CPNP
Date reviewed: April 2006
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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