Injury Prevention

Burns

Avoiding Household Burns

More than two million Americans suffer burn injuries each year, and about 70,000 of them require admission to the hospital.

"Burns are one of the leading causes of accidental injuries in childhood, and the greatest tragedy is that many of these could have been prevented," said Dr. David Wilcox of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your family and avoid a trip to the emergency department."

  • When cooking, keep pot handles turned toward the rear of the stove, and never leave the pans unattended.
  • Do not leave hot cups of coffee on tables or counter edges.
  • Do not carry hot liquids or food near your child or while holding your child.
  • Always test food temperatures before serving a child, especially foods or liquids heated in a microwave.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of children's reach in a locked cabinet. Use only child-resistant lighters.
  • Prevent scalding by keeping your water heater set at 120º to 125º F; test bath water before putting a child in the bathtub.
  • Cover unused electric outlets with safety caps, and replace damaged, frayed or brittle electrical cords.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on every floor of your house, especially in the kitchen, and know how to use them.
  • Do not put water on a grease fire — it can spread the fire.
  • Have a working smoke detector on every floor of your home. Check batteries at least once a year.
  • Know what to do in case clothing catches fire: Stop (don't run), Drop (to the floor, immediately), and Roll (cover your face and hands while rolling over to smother the flames).
"For burns and other medical emergencies, it's important to know first aid," added Dr. Wilcox. "Get medical attention for any burns to the eyes, mouth, hands, and genital areas, even if mild. If the burn covers a large area, get medical attention immediately."

For minor burns, run cool — not cold — water over the burn or hold a clean, cold compress on it until the pain subsides. Do not use not butter or other types of grease. Do not use ice. Remove jewelry or tight clothing from around burned areas, and apply a clean, dry dressing.

For more serious burns, do not use water or break blisters. Do not remove clothing if it is stuck to the burned skin. Keep the victim warm and dry, and keep burned arms or legs raised to reduce swelling.

Get immediate medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms related to a burn:

  • fever
  • puslike or foul-smelling drainage
  • excessive swelling
  • redness of the skin
  • a blister filled with greenish or brownish fluid
  • a burn that doesn't heal in 10 days to 2 weeks

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