Burn Prevention and Treatment Tips

Written by | Updated July 26, 2016

Burn Prevention and Treatment

From boiling water to grilling equipment, burn injuries can easily occur anywhere and at any time — particularly to children who are less aware of potential dangers. In 2013 alone, more than 125,000 children under the age of 19 visited an emergency room for fire and burn injuries. While it’s hard to tame your little ones’ curiosity, you can take a few precautionary steps to prevent burn injuries from happening — and know what to do if they do happen.

First, it’s important to understand the different types of burns, as the prevention and treatment for each will vary.

Thermal Burns

Thermal burns are among the most common burns and affect more than 2 million people per year. These injuries result from exposure to heated objects, such as steam, boiling water, hot cooking oil, fire, and the sun. Children are most likely to experience this type of burn if they touch or stand near a hot stove or get sunburned.

Prevention Tips:

  • Practice sun safety whenever outdoors. Apply sunscreen and lip balm with a minimum SPF of 30 — SPF 45 is preferred — at least 20 minutes before heading outside, and reapply every 80 minutes.
  • Keep curling irons, tea kettles, and cooking equipment away from the edges of tables or countertops so young children can’t grab them or knock them over.
  • When cooking on a stovetop, use the back burners so the handle and flame are out of reach.
  • Grills, stovetops, and ovens remain hot long after they’re turned off. Keep them off-limits to your children and teach them to never touch the surface.

Treatment Tips:

  • Put out any flames, stop contact with the hot object, and remove hot or burned clothing.
  • Seek emergency medical care if the burn involves the eyes, feet, genitals, or any major joints.
  • Cool the injured area with cold water — not ice — for several minutes.
  • For minor burns, use an antibiotic ointment to reduce the chance of infection. Aloe vera is an excellent natural home remedy.
  • Don’t puncture any blisters that may form; rather, let them heal on their own. If a blister opens, use soap and water to clean the wound.

Chemical Burns

Chemical burns occur when your skin, mouth, or eyes come into contact with an acidic or alkaline irritant. The most common household causes of chemical burns include drain cleaners, gasoline, coolant, and paint thinner. With most chemicals, the burn causes pain, redness, eye irritation, or, if ingested, an upset stomach.

Prevention Tips:

  • Keep chemicals out of the reach of children, either on high shelves or in locked cabinets away from food.
  • Store chemicals properly and safely, ensuring that lids are secure and nothing is leaking.
  • Keep all chemicals in their original containers with their names and warning labels intact so you can refer to them for treatment steps if necessary.
  • Label all products that contain a toxic substance using a sharpie or piece of red tape. If you aren’t sure if a substance is toxic, call your local poison control center.

Treatment Tips:

  • Remove the chemical causing the burn, as well as any contaminated clothing.
  • Rinse the burn with cool water for at least 10 minutes. If the burn covers an extensive area, run a shower.
  • Apply a loose bandage on the burned area. For superficial burns, you can give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve the pain.
  • If a chemical is ingested or if the burn is more than three inches in size or is on the face, hands, feet, or groin, go to the hospital right away.

Electrical Burns

Though not as common as thermal or chemical burns, electrical burns can be severe. Caused by an electrical current, this type of burn can pass through your body and damage muscles and organs. Besides being struck by lightning, electrical burns can be caused by touching exposed parts of electrical appliances, wiring, and power lines.

Prevention Tips:

  • Use covers on all exposed power outlets and unplug electronic devices that aren’t in use.
  • Keep electrical appliances away from water, sinks, and bathtubs.
  • Immediately repair or replace frayed electrical cords. Never use appliances or electronics with damaged cords.
  • Teach your children never to stick metal objects into electrical outlets or appliances such as toasters.

Treatment Tips:

  • Don’t touch the person if he or she is still in contact with the electrical current. Unplug the appliance or turn off the power source first.
  • If the burn victim isn’t responsive, begin CPR and call 911.
  • If the person is conscious, rinse the burns with cool water and apply a loose bandage.
  • Depending on the severity — or if you aren’t sure how acute the burn is — visit the emergency room or urgent care. A doctor can determine what level of treatment is best and whether or not any tests are required to assess for internal damage.

Burns are painful injuries and can be very dangerous. Taking precaution and practicing home safety best practices can help you reduce the risk of your child getting hurt. It’s impossible to prevent accidents, and there’s no sure way to avoid burn injuries. Keep a first aid kit and burn treatment necessities handy — in your home and in your car — to help reduce stress and help you treat the wound properly.

Have you experienced any burns? What are your go-to tips for prevention or treatment? How do you keep your kids safe from burns and other injuries? Comment and then share this article with your fellow parents.

Written by Melissa Darcey

Melissa Darcey is a freelance writer whose work has been featured in a number of technology, lifestyle, and business publications. Learn more

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