This week is National Burn Awareness Week (Feb. 3-9), and while that might sound like something that has to do with fire, a significant number of serious burns occur from sources other than fire, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
Approximately 486,000 people sustain burn injuries serious enough to require treatment from hot liquids, heated devices and chemicals, as well as fire-related incidents each year, according to American Burn Association.
Children are particularly susceptible to scald burns, the second-leading cause of all burn injuries. Scald burns and those caused by something wet such as hot bath water or hot beverages like coffee or microwaved soup being spilled.
Between 2013 to 2017, there were an estimated 376,950 scald burn injuries associated with consumer household appliances and products seen in hospital emergency rooms nationwide. Each day more than 300 youths are sent to the ER — and two children die — from burn injuries. And almost 62 percent of people treated in burn centers for scald burns are kids under the age of 5.
Older adults are at a somewhat similar risk for serious burns because, like babies, their skin is thinner, according to the ABA, putting them at risk for deep burns at lower temperatures and short exposure times.
If you have young children — or even if you don’t — there are a few things you can do to help prevent scalding injuries. One easy step is to set your water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees or the manufacturers recommended setting. Did you know that it takes only two seconds of exposure to 150 degree water to cause third-degree burns? As an added bonus, setting your temperature lower can save you a few bucks on your water bill. Anti-scald showerheads and faucets are also available for sale at hardware stores.
When cooking, use the back burners of your stove if possible and turn pot handles away from the edge, which will keep little hands from grabbing them and pulling them down. The same goes for tables and countertops — put hot foods and liquids to the back or center of a table and away from edges.
For adults, it’s best to use oven mitts or potholders — the dish towel, while handy, might not be thick enough to prevent burns, and if it is wet, can cause scalds when the moisture is combined with the heat.
If you’re cooking with oil, use a lid or splash guard to prevent hot grease from splattering. Make sure to heat the oil slowly to the temperature you need. If the oil smells or begins to smoke, it’s a danger sign that the oil is too hot. Immediately turn off the burner and carefully remove the pan from the heat source. Never add water, ice or use a fire extinguisher on hot oil.
Use caution with the microwave as well. The microwave might seem like a safe choice for kids to warm up or cook a snack, but food and containers can get deceptively hot. Just like an oven, use a potholder to remove heated food from the microwave and open hot containers carefully; open lids so steam escapes away from your face. Of course, allow microwaved foods to cool before eating.
Many minor scald burns can be treated at home with cool, not cold, or lukewarm running water for about 20 minutes until pain subsides. Don’t use ice or iced water, or ointments or other greasy substances, which can cause infection. Remove any restrictive clothing or jewelry from the area of the burn, and cover the burn with a sterile, nonadhesive bandage or clean cloth.
Of course, for serious burns or if you see signs of infection — such as increased pain, redness, swelling, fever or oozing — you should seek medical attention immediately.
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Burns, particularly scalding burns, can mostly be avoided by taking some of these common sense safety steps.