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Burn Awareness Week Spotlights Scalds and Cigarette Dangers

February 10, 2012

Augusta, GA – Every year more than 4,000 people across America die from fires and burn-related injuries, many of which could have been prevented.  Burn Awareness Week, February 5th – 11th, is a week dedicated to raising awareness about how fires and burn injuries can be prevented.

While it takes five minutes for an adult to get burned by 120°F water, it can take only seconds for a child to get scalded at that same temperature. 

“Some of the most devastating burn injuries we see are scald burns to children,” said Dr. Fred Mullins, Medical Director for the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital.  “A child’s skin is much thinner than an adult’s, so it takes much less time to burn, and those burns are often more severe.”

Scalds account for 75 percent of pediatric burn injuries, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.  Of those, one in four is caused by hot tap or bath water.

 “It is not just children, though,” said Dr. Mullins, “the skin of elderly people is also much thinner than a normal adult. They are also very susceptible to scald burns.”

There are several ways to reduce scalds, such as setting a hot water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees or, if there is no detailed thermostat, set the temperature level to “warm.”

“Even if you adjust your thermostat, you should always check the temperature of the water,” said Dr. Mullins.

Other tips to avoid scalds, especially those that can occur in the kitchen, include:

  • Create a three-foot “safe zone” around appliances in the kitchen. 
  • Never leave any unattended items on the stove top, and make sure all handles are out of the reach of children.
  • Never drink or carry hot liquids while carrying or holding a child.
  • Keep all hot items away from the sides of the table.
  • Remember, items heated in the microwave can be exceptionally hot and cause internal burns.
  • Try to avoid using tablecloths which could allow a child to pull hot liquids off a table.

2012’s Burn Awareness Week also focuses on cigarettes and the fires and burns they can cause.  While most home fires are caused by cooking accidents and equipment, most fatal fires are sparked by cigarettes.

"Whether someone falls asleep while smoking or a fire is caused by a cigarette that is not fully extinguished, these fires and the resulting burns are completely preventable,” said Dr. Mullins.