Burns: Preventing Burns in Your Home

Fires and other accidents in your home can result in burns to you or a family member. These situations often happen unexpectedly. However, take time now to be prepared and know what to do if someone in your home gets burned.

Path to improved health

Not all burns happen because of fires. Household chemicals, scalding water, and household appliances can also cause burns. Here are some things you can do to keep you and your family safe.

General fire safety

  • Install smoke alarms in your home. Check them monthly to make sure they sound an alarm. If they run on batteries, change the batteries every 6 months.
  • Learn how and when to use a fire extinguisher. Keep one in your kitchen, one near the washer and dryer, and one near your furnace.
  • Think about how you would get out of your home if there was a fire. Make a family escape plan. Have regular fire drills at home. Pick a location outside where all family members would meet in case of fire.
  • Have a professional electrician check the wiring in your home at least once every 10 years.
  • Have a professional inspect and clean your chimney and fireplace once a year.

How to prevent different types of fires or burns around your home

  • If you have a car seat in your car, always touch it before putting your child in it. That’s because hot seat-belt straps and buckles can cause second-degree burns on small children. Cover the car seat with a towel if you park in the sun.
  • Put covers on all electrical outlets a child can reach. This will help prevent electrical burns.
  • Throw away electrical cords that are frayed or damaged. This also will help prevent electrical burns.
  • Prevent chemical burns by wearing gloves and other protective clothing when you handle chemicals. Store chemicals, including gasoline, out of the reach of children.
  • Use space heaters carefully. Keep them at least 3 feet away from curtains, rugs, bedding, clothing, and paper. Teach children to stay away from them.
  • Store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet, away from children.
  • Never leave candles unattended. Blow them out when you leave the room. Consider using flameless candles, instead.
  • If you smoke, don’t smoke in bed. Get rid of used cigarettes carefully. Fires caused by smoking materials are the leading cause of deaths in house fires.
  • Don’t let small children play near the stove or help you cook at the stove.
  • Don’t wear clothing with long, loose sleeves when you’re cooking.
  • Cooking fires are the leading cause of house fires. Put out a small fire on the stove by sliding a lid over the flames.
  • Don’t use a microwave oven to warm baby bottles. The liquid heats unevenly and can scald your baby’s mouth.
  • Unplug hot irons (clothing and curling irons). Keep them out of reach of children.

Preventing hot water burns in your home

  • Set the temperature on your water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or use the “low-medium” setting. Water that is hotter than this can cause burns in 2 to 3 seconds.
  • Test the water temperature before you or your children get into the tub or shower. Don’t let young children touch the faucet handles during a bath.
  • When cooking, turn the handles of pots and pans toward the side of the stove, or use the back burners.
  • Use cool-water humidifiers or vaporizers. If you use hot-steam vaporizers, keep them out of the reach of children.

Things to consider

If there is a fire in your home, your family should:

  • Follow your family escape plan. Get to your meeting place as fast as you can.
  • Stay low to the ground. Crawl if you have to. Smoke and heat rise. It will be easier to breathe closer to the floor. (More people die from the poisonous gasses caused by house fires than from burns.)
  • Check closed doors by touching them with the back of your hand. If the door is hot, don’t open it. It means the fire is nearby. If it’s cool, open it slowly and make sure you don’t see fire before exiting the room.
  • Close doors to separate yourself from the fire and smoke.
  • If you or your clothes catch on fire, “stop, drop and roll” your body on the ground.

Questions for your doctor

  • What medicine should I keep at home to treat mild burns?
  • What does a severe burn look like?
  • Are there natural remedies to treat a mild burn?
  • Can over-the-counter pain relievers help with the pain of a mild burn?
  • What is the treatment for smoke inhalation?

Resources

American Red Cross: Home Fire Safety

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Burn Prevention

National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus: Fire Safety at Home

National Safety Council: Keep Your Family Safe From Fire