Burn and Scald Prevention, Infants Ages Birth to One Year

Each year in New York State, over 140 children under age one year are hospitalized and over 430 children in this age group are treated and released from hospital emergency departments because of injuries caused by scalds and other hot objects. Children under the age of four are among those most at risk for injuries caused by scalds and contact burns.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing contact burns and scalds.

What causes burns?

  • Children's skin touching hot metals, like a stove, curling iron or flames (such as the fireplace).
  • Swallowing chemicals, like drain cleaner or bleach.
  • Biting on electrical cords or sticking fingers or objects in electrical outlets.
  • Sunburns are inflammation (swelling) of the skin caused by too much exposure to the sun.

What type of injuries do burns cause?

  • Burns can range from mild to life-threatening.
  • Both burns and scalds are painful and can require years of treatment, cause scars and even death.
  • Burns damage the skin which provides the first line of defense against infection. Because of this, infections from burns are a major cause of illness and death for people with burns.

What is a scald?

Scalds are burns caused by contact with "wet heat," such as hot liquids, bath water, steam, hot foods, drinks or cooking liquids.

What causes scalds?

Scalds often happen in the kitchen or room where food is prepared. Contact with hot tap water in bathtubs or showers or with steam from microwaved items causes scalds.

Why are young children at risk for burns?

Children have thinner skin than adults so they burn more quickly. Children do not have control over their surroundings. They do not understand the need to stay away from hot items and often cannot escape from an unsafe situation.

What is the most dangerous room for my child?

The kitchen is the most dangerous room for young children. It is best to keep children out of the kitchen when preparing meals. When your child is in the kitchen, keep him/her in a quiet area (like a playpen, crib, or high chair) where he/she can play safely under adult supervision.

How can I keep my child safe when I am cooking or serving food?

  • Never carry a baby and hot liquids at the same time.
  • Never heat baby bottles of formula or milk in a microwave.
  • Never leave food unattended on a stove when cooking.
  • Turn pot handles inward and out of a child's reach.
  • Use non-slip placemats instead of tablecloths when serving hot foods or drinks. This will help prevent children from pulling on them and spilling hot items.
  • Stir and test all food prepared in a microwave. Microwaves heat foods unevenly. Foods may reach temperatures greater than boiling without looking like they are bubbling.

How can I keep my child safe from scalds while in the bathroom?

  • Constant adult supervision of infants is the most important factor in preventing tap water scalds in the bathroom. Never leave children alone in bathtub or in the bathroom.
  • Infants should be bathed in a small, specially-designed tub for babies. Fill the tub first before and test the water temperature before placing your baby in the tub.
  • Children should not be allowed to play with water faucets while bathing. In the bathtub, face your child an arm's length away from faucets so he/she cannot reach them.
  • To prevent most tap water scald injuries, the temperature-regulating thermostat or control on water heaters should be set to a temperature no higher than 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Anti-scald devices can be installed on water faucets and shower heads in apartment buildings or multi-family dwellings where tenants cannot lower the water heater temperature. These devices prevent water that is hotter than 110 degrees Fahrenheit from coming out of the faucet.

How can I prevent burns from electrical and heating sources?

  • Do not allow children to crawl alone around stoves, candles, wall or floor heaters, fireplaces, outdoor grills or other hot appliances.
  • Install plastic safety plugs in unused electrical outlets to prevent children from inserting metal objects which can cause electrical burns.
  • Unplug electrical cords of appliances that get hot (such as hair dryers and irons) when not in use. Store their cords out of the reach of children. Do not use exposed extension cords.

Where can I find more information about preventing scalds and burns?