Preventing Burns in Babies

Infants are at risk for burns inside and outside of the home, but simple precautions can help reduce these risks significantly. First, make sure that there are properly functioning smoke detectors on all levels of the home, including the basement. Smoke detector batteries should be tested regularly and changed accordingly. Never remove the battery from a smoke detector to fuel another appliance.

All adults should know how to use a fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers should be placed in a prominent, easy-to-reach location and should be kept out of the reach of infants and young children. Chimneys, appliances, and heating systems should be properly cleaned and well maintained. Remove all fire hazards from the home and unplug electrical appliances when not in use.

Any appliance with a frayed or loose electrical cord should be disposed of immediately. Keep cords out of the reach of infants to prevent electric shock. Electrical outlets should be covered with child-safety devices and should never be overloaded.

Matches, lighters, and chemicals should be locked in a cabinet out of a child's reach. Textiles (e.g., rugs, curtains, blankets) should not be placed near lamps or electrical cords.

Sleepwear and bedding should be flame-retardant. Be sure that all smoking materials, candles, and fireworks are extinguished properly and never accessible to a child. Keep babies away from fireplaces, barbeque grills, fire pits, wood stoves, space heaters, radiators, and electric baseboard heaters.

In the kitchen, keep children away from hot foods and heat sources, such as stoves, toaster ovens, and coffee makers. Never carry an infant and a hot beverage at the same time and never hold an infant at the table while cooking or eating hot food.

Set the hot water heater no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Use caution when bathing an infant and always test bath water with your elbow first. Make sure the child cannot turn on the hot water faucet on his or her own and never leave the child unsupervised. An anti-scald device can provide extra protection. Also, make sure there are no electrical appliances nearby that may fall into the bathtub.

Remember that burns can occur outside the home as well. Playground equipment, toys, metal seat belt buckles in cars, and vinyl in safety seats can heat up substantially in the sun, so either move them to the shade or cover them with a towel. Test these items to make sure they are not too hot and don't use them until they cool off.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 22 Sep 2015