Doctors Hospital of Augusta
February 01, 2019

Augusta, GA — Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States sustains a burn injury serious enough to need treatment. Children under the age of 16 account for 26 percent of all admissions to burn centers. Most of those injuries are scalds, and most of them are preventable.

Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America is marking Burn Awareness Week February 3 through February 9. This year, the focus is on keeping children safe from hot foods and liquids.

"It takes only a second for kids to grab something they shouldn't. That is why it is important for caretakers to keep a close eye on children in the kitchen and bathroom," said Dr. Fred Mullins, Medical Director of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital and President of Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America. "So much of what we treat could be avoided if people would always pause to consider the potential danger of a scald."

The skin of infants and toddlers is thinner than those of adults, and exposure to hot water while cooking or bathing can lead to deeper burn injuries at lower temperatures or shorter exposure times, according to Dr. Mullins. Children are naturally curious about what is going on in the kitchen, so preparation is paramount in avoiding scalds.

"Keep the kids out of the kitchen if at all possible," Dr. Mullins said. "At the very least, have them stay three feet away from anything hot and be conscious of where they are at all times."

Below is a list of tips on preventing scalds:

  • While cooking, establish safe play areas out of the traffic path between the stove and the sink, where children can be supervised.
  • Steam from microwave popcorn bags is hotter than 180°F and can burn skin in less than a second. Allow the bag to sit for at least a minute before opening it away from your face.
  • Children grow fast and can reach new dangerous things every day. Supervision is the single most important factor in preventing burns.
  • It only takes two seconds of exposure to 148°F water to cause a burn serious enough to require surgery. Coffee is often served at 175°F, making it high-risk for causing immediate, severe scald burns.
  • When microwaving food, steam inside covered containers can quickly reach over 200°F. Puncture plastic wrap or use vented containers to allow steam to escape while cooking. Wait at least one minute before removing the cover by lifting the corner farthest from you, away from your face and hands.
  • Microwave ovens are thought to be safer than conventional ovens, but microwaves heat foods and liquids to very high temperatures and can cause burns from spills, steam, and splashes.
  • Hot water pressure may fluctuate due to running water in other parts of the home. Avoid flushing toilets, running water, or using the dishwasher or washing machine while someone is showering to prevent sudden surges of scalding water.

Burn Awareness Week is an annual opportunity to highlight the cause of such devastating and costly injuries, and to encourage the public to make simple environmental and behavioral changes that have proven to mitigate these issues.