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How to prevent burns and scalds

The most common causes of burns in children under 5 years old include:

  • scalds from hot drinks and bath water
  • hobs
  • radiators
  • hair straighteners
  • irons

In 5 to 16 year olds, flame burns are the most common. These are often from playing near fires or with flammable substances.

Keeping children safe

Your child can develop very quickly. They often want to explore and are interested in touching everything! Try and plan for how you can keep them safe as they become more mobile.

As your child gets older and more independent, teach them how to cook and make hot drinks safely.

Teach older siblings safety rules and supervise children in the kitchen.

Preventing scalds

  • Keep all hot drinks out of reach of children. A hot drink can scald a child up to 15 minutes after it being poured.
  • Do not drink hot drinks with a baby on your lap. Do not pass hot drinks over a baby.
  • Move kettles out of the reach of children.
  • Turn saucepan handles away from the side.
  • Always run the cold water first in the bath.
  • Check the bath temperature with your elbow or a thermometer.
  • You can fit a thermostatic mixer to your tap so the water doesn’t get too hot.

Preventing burns from hot appliances

  • Keep hot appliances out of reach of children.
  • Check hair straighteners and irons are cooling somewhere safe.
  • Check appliance cables are not hanging down where a child can pull on them.
  • Keep a secure fireguard in front of open fires, log burners and heaters.
  • Take care around barbeques.

Preventing burns from fire

  • Keep candles, matches and lighters out of sight and reach of children.
  • Have a smoke alarm on each level of your home. Check it is working once a week.
  • Make a plan of how you would escape if there was a fire and practice it with your family.
  • Be careful if your child is wearing flammable material, such as fancy dress, near flames.
  • Teach your child not to play with aerosols or flammable liquids around fires. Aerosols can explode if they come into contact with fire.

Preventing burns from the sun

  • Always wear a hat and t-shirt.
  • Apply factor 50 suncream regularly and after being in water, even if it is labelled as waterproof or all-day protection and even if it is cloudy, as you can still get burnt.
  • Wear a sun suit.
  • Seek shade, especially in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest.

Burns first aid advice

  1. Stop the heat
    • remove any hot liquid or contact with the hot appliance
    • if your child is on fire they should ‘stop, drop and roll’
  2. Call for help: 999, 111 or your GP
  3. Cool the burn
    • Use cool running water for 20 minutes
    • Remove any clothing or jewellery if you can
  4. Cover the burn
    • With clingfilm, a sterile bandage or a clean non-fluffy cloth
  5. Try and keep the child warm
  6. Give your child pain relief medication if you can

Do not apply anything else to the burn. This includes ice, frozen veg, toothpaste, nappy cream, turmeric, or tea leaves. This will make the burn worse.
Do not try to pop any blisters.

Further information

Children’s Burns Trust has useful information on burns first aid:

For advice on preventing fires visit:

How to childproof your home:

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: PT51

Resource Type: Article

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