Preventing Burns in Toddlers

Cooking, bath water, chemicals, hot surfaces, fireā€”all of these can cause accidental burns with active toddlers around. Here are some precautions to keep in mind.

It is best not to allow toddlers in the kitchen while preparing and serving foods. To help prevent burns, using only the back burners keeps a hot stovetop out of a child's reach and turning pot handles toward the back of the stove can help prevent toddlers from grabbing them. Hot food and beverages should be kept away from edges of tables and countertops. Tablecloths should not be used, as toddlers may pull on them.

Use care when using a microwave to heat a child's food. Microwaves do not always heat food evenly, resulting in portions that may be cool in one place and too hot in another.

Before placing a toddler in the bathtub, make sure the water is not too hot. Set the water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and use a meat or candy thermometer to measure water temperature.

Adults and caregivers should never leave a toddler alone in the bathtub, even for a few seconds. Young children could turn on the hot water faucet and scald themselves. Anti-scald devices that stop the water flow when the temperature rises above a set point may be helpful.

Items that can cause burns or start a fire (e.g., matches, lighters, chemicals) should be kept out of the reach of toddlers. Electrical and gas appliances, heating systems, and home wiring should be checked regularly to make sure they are in good condition and that there are no frayed cords or loose connections.

Smoke detectors should be placed on every floor of the home. Batteries should be replaced regularly and never removed for use in another appliance, even temporarily. Fire extinguishers should also be available on each floor. They should be in easy-to-reach places, but out of the reach of young children.

Toddlers should be kept away from space heaters and fireplaces. Electrical heaters are safer than those fueled by gas or kerosene. A screen in front of a fireplace may help deter curious toddlers, but children should still be supervised whenever there is a flame nearby. Wood stoves should have a barrier around them.

Seasonal decorations and events can present hazards as well. Toddlers should be kept away from jack-o-lanterns that use an open flame and if possible, a battery-powered tea light should be used instead of a candle. Fireworks should not be used, except by professionals. Even sparklers can cause burns. Summer barbeques and campfires are other risks. Toddlers should be supervised around Hanukkah candles and Christmas tree lights and candles should never be used on Christmas trees.

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

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015