February is National Burn Awareness Month. Although it may seem like an obvious thing to be aware of and an easy injury to avoid, more than two million Americans are treated for serious burn injuries each year, and a good number of those burn victims are children. Children account for between 10 and 15 percent of fire-related deaths each year, and 52 percent of these are children under five. In addition, incidents of fire tend to spike in the winter time, so children are at higher risk during the winter months. Most burns occur in the home, and the most common type of burn for a child to sustain is a scald. Scalding accounts for 80% of the burns sustained by children under eight. It’s important to be aware that a burn injury is a real and common danger for a child, so that you can take steps to prevent it from happening. It’s also important to know how to treat a burn if one does occur.
- Prevention Most burns occur in one of two rooms: the kitchen and the bathroom. It’s very important to keep hot fluids away from children. Children shouldn’t play directly in front of the stove or microwave, as this puts them in real danger of having hot liquids spilled on them. Tablecloths and placemats may look pretty, but for small children, the temptation to pull on them can easily result in a hot liquid spill. It’s better not to use them. Hot water heaters should be set at 120 degrees F at the most. Thermostat-controlled faucets or valves are available in the event that you have a hot water heater that can’t be adjusted to an appropriate temperature. Babies should be bathed in water no hotter than 100 degrees, and bath water for small children should be no hotter than 104 degrees. A small child’s thinner skin puts them at greater risk of scalding than an adult. The most important method to avoid childhood burns is constant supervision by an adult.
- Treatment If you’ve grown up hearing the old wives tale about putting butter on a burn, now is the time to forget it. Not only does it not work, experts say that it does more harm than good. You should also avoid putting ice on a burn, as the burned area is susceptible to frostbite. Instead, you should immediately run cool water over the area, or apply cool wet cloths. Minor burns (1st degree burns and 2nd degree burns smaller than a quarter) can be treated at home. A lotion heavy in aloe vera will soothe pain and promote healing. If a blister forms, do not pop it. Larger 2nd degree burns and any 3rd degree burn should be treated by a medical professional. Don’t apply any lotions or salves to a burn that you’re going to have treated by a doctor.
Obviously, you’ll want to ensure that matches and lighters are kept out of reach of children, and never leave a small child alone in the kitchen. Burn injuries are completely preventable with a combination of supervision and child-proofing.