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Child touching stove

What to do if a child gets burned

From fire pits and stoves to hot baths and curling irons, there are many ways children can accidentally get burned at home. In fact, about 120,000 children under age 20 are seen in emergency departments for burns every year in the United States.

Scalds from hot water and other liquids are the most common cause of burns in young children, while burns from fires are more common in older kids.

While accidents can happen, I recommend parents take the following precautions to keep their kids safe:

  • Supervise your children, especially when they are around campfires and fire pits.
  • Set the thermostat on the hot water heater below 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Aim for bath water around 100 degrees Fahrenheit and be sure to test it with your arm.
  • When using the stove, turn pot handles inward and use the inner burners.

Who to call and when

Unfortunately, even if every safety measure is taken, burns can still happen.

Less severe burns that only cause redness and mild discomfort can be cared for at home with some simple first-aid. First, run a towel under room temperature water and apply to the burn — do not apply ice. Give Ibuprofen or Tylenol for discomfort and gently clean the burned area with soap and water. For more severe burns that cause pain and/or blistering, you should take your child to an urgent care clinic or the emergency department.

Take your child to an urgent care clinic if:

  • The burn is limited to a small area of skin.
  • The burn does not appear too deep.

Take your child to the emergency room if:

  • Your child was burned on the face or hands, in the genital area, or around a joint like the elbow or wrist.
  • The burn caused large blisters or a deep wound.
  • The burn covers a large area of skin.
  • Your child was burned while in the bathtub or from a fire.

Call 911 if:

  • Your child is in severe pain or suffered a severe burn.
  • Your child is having difficulty breathing.
  • The burn was caused by electrocution, chemicals or inhalation.
  • Your child suffered a traumatic injury.

Most importantly, trust your gut and err on the side of caution, especially if your child is an infant.