Safety For You: Contact burns – Hot surfaces damage skin

Safety For You

Contact burns affect all ages. Children, older adults and people with disabilities are most vulnerable.  E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety wants to provide you with information on contact burn injury prevention during National Burn Awareness Week, February 2 – 8, 2020.

Most burns associated with cooking in 2013-2017 were caused by contact with a hot object or liquid rather than by fire or flame.

“Contact burns can be prevented through increased awareness of hot objects and by making simple environmental or behavioral changes,” according to Firefighter Michael McLeieer, President of the non-profit safety charity E.S.C.A.P.E.  “These changes include providing a “3-foot-kid-safe zone” while preparing and serving hot foods and beverages as well as lowering the water heater thermostat to deliver water at a temperature not to exceed 120 degrees since tap water burns are often more severe than cooking-related burns,” said McLeieer.

Burn Awareness Week, observed the first full week in February, is designed to provide an opportunity for burn, fire and life safety educators to unite in sharing a common burn awareness and prevention message in our communities throughout Michigan and across the country. 

 Tips to prevent burns and scalds:

  • Teach children that hot things can burn.  Install anti-scald devices on tub faucets and shower heads.  It takes only one second for water at 155 degrees F to cause a third degree burn.
  • Always supervise a child in or near a bathtub and face them away from faucets.  Babies and toddlers can turn on hot water when you turn your back.
  • Before placing a child in the bath or getting in the bath yourself, test the water.
  • Test the water at the faucet and by moving your hand, wrist and forearm through the water.  The water should feel warm, not hot, to the touch.  It should be less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).
  • Provide constant adult supervision of young children or anyone who is bathing and may experience difficulty removing themselves from hot water on their own. 
  • Avoid flushing toilets, running water, or using dish or clothes washers while anyone is showering.

•   In the kitchen, turn pot handles back, away from the stove’s edge and use back burners      when young children are present.

•   Use dry oven mitts or potholders.  Hot cookware can heat moisture in a potholder or hot        pad, resulting in a scald burn.

  • Open microwaved food slowly and away from the face. 
  • Never heat a baby bottle in a microwave oven.

•   Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.

•   Establish a “kid-safe-zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove, hot liquids and hot foods.       The “kid-safe zone” should be an area out of the traffic path between the stove and sink      where children can safely play and still be supervised.

  • Never hold a child while you are cooking, drinking a hot liquid, or carrying hot foods or liquids.
  • Keep hot liquids away from babies and small children.  Put drinks and soups in the center of the table away from curious fingers.
  • Replace tablecloths with place mats to prevent children from pulling everything on a table onto themselves.
  • Children under age five are 5 times more likely to be burned by cooking than others.
  • Keep children away from stoves, grills, campfires and fireplaces.  This protects them from cooking liquids, grease, and hot metal.
  • Keep appliance cords out of reach of children.
  • Turn off unattended irons.

General first aid for burns and scalds:

•   Treat a burn right away by putting it in cool water. Cool the burn for three to five      minutes.

•   Cover burn with a clean, dry cloth. Do not apply creams, ointments, sprays or other      home remedies.  Seek medical attention if needed.

  • Remove all clothing, diapers, jewelry and metal from the burned area. These can hide underlying burns and retain heat, which can increase skin damage.

For more information about preventing burns, visit the American Burn Association website at

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