Be Burn Aware is our year-round campaign to help keep children safe from burn injuries, especially at home. The campaign includes activity books for children, information on basic home safety for adults, and educational videos for the entire family. Visit beburnaware.org for more information.
Approximately 85 percent of fire-related deaths occur in homes. And every year, more than 400 children under age 10 die in home fires.
Fires and burns are the third leading cause of deaths that occur in the home, the third-leading cause of injury-related fatalities among children ages 1–9, and the fourth most prevalent cause for children ages 10–14 in the U.S. Many more could be prevented by following some prevention tips and precautions.
Help prevent fires:
- Follow safe cooking practices: Never leave food that is cooking unattended; supervise children’s use of the stove, oven, or microwave.
- Install and maintain smoke alarms on every floor of the home and near every bedroom. Test them monthly.
- Teach children that fire is not a toy and it can be dangerous.
- Keep matches and lighters locked up and away from children.
- Keep electrical cords from being trapped against walls.
- Do not overload electrical circuits or extension cords.
- Do not place electrical cords or wires under rugs, over nails, or in high traffic areas.
- Shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark, or smell. Have them checked and repaired or replaced.
- Be careful when using portable heaters. Be sure bedding, clothing, and other combustible items are at least 3 feet from space heaters.
- Replace mattresses made prior to 2007 when flammability standards were implemented.
- Use fireplace screens and have the chimney cleaned annually.
- Kerosene heaters should only be used when approved by authorities. Do not use gasoline or camp-stove fuel. Refuel outside and only when the unit is cool.
Be prepared for a fire:
Fires occur quickly. In less than 30 seconds, a single flame can become a fire. In two minutes, it can become life-threatening; in five minutes, a residence can be destroyed. To protect yourself and your family, be prepared:
- Have an escape plan and practice it with the children. Learn two ways out of every room and agree on a meeting place outside the building.
- If you live in an apartment building, know the best route to the stairwell and emergency exits.
- If you are in a room with a closed door when fire occurs, there are extra precautions:
- Do not open the door if you see smoke under it.
- If you don’t see smoke, check the door handle. If it is hot, do not open the door.
- If you can open the door and there is no smoke or heat, proceed quickly to your exit.
- Stay low to the ground as you exit.
- If you can’t get out right away, yell for help or call 911 if you have a phone. Do not hide in a closet or under a bed.
Information from KidsHealth.org, Ready.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Fire Administration, and Safe Kids Worldwide was used in this report.
Every day, hundreds of young children with burn injuries are taken to emergency rooms. They were not even near a flame. The children are victims of scalds.
Clearly, this is a real danger. Scald burns (caused by hot liquids, steam, or foods) are the most common burn injury among children ages 4 and younger. According to Safe Kids USA, an average of 12 children ages 14 and under die from scald burn injuries each year. Children ages 4 and under account for nearly all of these deaths.
How scalds happen
Most scalds occur in residences. Scald burns are typically related to ordinary activities—bathing, cooking, and eating—and often happen to children because of a lapse in adult supervision or a lack of protective measures. Young children have thinner skin that burns more quickly than adults. People of all ages can be burned in 30 seconds by a flowing liquid that is 130° F; at 140° F, it takes only 5 seconds; at 160° F, it only takes 1 second. For children under 5, these temperatures can cause a burn in half the time.
According to Safe Kids USA, hot tap-water burns most often occur in the bathroom and tend to be more severe and cover a larger portion of the body than other scald burns. Continuous supervision of young children is the most important factor in preventing tap-water scald burns, but there are additional simple preventive measures that can be taken:
- Lower the temperature settings on water heaters to 120° F (49° C) or less.
- When filling the bathtub, turn on cold water first. Mix in warmer water carefully.
- Check the water temperature by rapidly moving your hand through the water. If the water feels hot to an adult, it is too hot for a child.
- When placing a child in the tub, face them away from faucets and as close to the other end of the tub as possible.
Scalds also occur in the kitchen and dining room. Many of these can be prevented by following these tips:
- Always supervise children in the kitchen and dining areas.
- Keep pot handles turned inward; use oven mitts or pot holders. Keep clothing from coming into contact with flames or heating elements.
- Keep children away from everything that is hot.
- Follow instructions and cautions for heating items in a microwave oven.
- Do not use deep fryers with children present.
Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati wants children and families to “Be Burn Aware,” especially at home.
Burn prevention is a key endeavor of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati, which is why the health care system began its annual Burn Awareness campaign more than 20 years ago.
Safety begins at home
- Every day across the U.S., hundreds of children are taken to emergency rooms for treatment of scald burns caused by contact with hot liquids, steam, or foods.
- Approximately 65 percent of children under age 4 hospitalized for burn injuries were scalded by hot liquids and 20 percent for contact burns.
- Among children ages 14 and under, hair curlers and curling irons, room heaters, ovens and ranges, irons, gasoline, and fireworks are the most common causes of product-related thermal burn injuries.
- Since 1999, an average of 496 children ages 14 and under have died each year due to unintentional fire or burn-related injury.
- Nearly two-thirds of electrical burn injuries among children ages 12 and younger are associated with household electrical cords and extension cords. Wall outlets are associated with an additional 14 percent of these injuries.
- Children in homes without smoke alarms are at greater risk of fires and fire-related death and injury.
View our burn prevention cards.