These common mistakes are putting your family at risk for dangerous burns

Did you know that 1.1 million burn injuries require medical attention in the United States each year (American Burn Association, 2002)? It is important to be aware of the everyday activities that can cause serious injuries to you and your family.

Fortunately, there are things that you can do to keep you and your family safe. As February has been dedicated National Burn Awareness Month, here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to avoid burn injuries.

Cooking burns

For adults and children alike, it is often hard to resist a pan of cookies fresh from the oven or from taste-testing a homemade spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove.

To avoid cooking-related burns, use safe cooking practices such as never leaving food unattended on the stove and turning pot handles away from the front of the stove. Also, supervise or restrict children’s use of stoves, ovens, or microwaves.

Heat in your home

In cold weather, it is tempting to supplement home heat with space heaters. If you do so, make sure to place space heaters on a floor that is flat and level, NOT on rugs or carpets.

Also be sure to keep space heaters at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, and other flammable materials, as well as out of the flow of foot traffic. Children and pets should also be kept out of reach from space heaters.

Stay alarmed

Smoke alarms cut your chances of dying in a fire in half (NFPA, 1999). Smoke alarms should be placed on each floor of your home, including one alarm outside a bedroom where you sleep.

Don’t forget to change the batteries in your smoke alarms at least once a year. Though tempting, never borrow smoke alarm batteries for other purposes.

Develop a plan

Only 60 percent of Americans have a fire escape plan, and of those, only 25 percent have practiced it (NFPA, 1999). Create and practice a family fire escape plan, and involve kids in the planning.

Make sure everyone knows at least two ways out of every room and identify a central meeting place outside. Click here for a fun computer activity to do with your kids to build your own family home escape plan.

Stop, drop, and roll

Stop, drop, and roll” is used when clothing catches fire. Children often get confused about when to use the stop, drop, and roll technique.

Children who do not have a good understanding of stop, drop, and roll will sometimes use it if they burn a finger or if the smoke alarm sounds.

Using stop, drop, and roll under the wrong circumstances could be very dangerous – and should only be done when clothing catches fire. Stress the importance of knowing when to do this behavior with your children.

Different degrees of burns

Finally, there are three types of burns: first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree.

First-degree burns involve the top layer of skin.

Sunburn is an example of a first-degree burn and symptoms include redness, pain when touched, and mild swelling. First degree burns usually heal without further treatment.

However, if a first-degree burn covers a large area of the body, or the victim is an infant or elderly, seek emergency medical attention.

Second-degree burns involve the first two layers of skin and symptoms include deep reddening of the skin, pain, blisters, and possible loss of skin.

Further medical treatment is required. Do not attempt to treat serious burns unless you are a trained health professional.

A third-degree burn penetrates the entire thickness of the skin and permanently destroys tissue and include symptoms such as loss of skin layers, painless, dry and leathery appearance or may appear charred with patches which appear white, brown or black.

Immediate medical attention is required. Do not attempt to treat serious burns unless you are a trained health professional.

Practicing some smarter choices can keep you and your family safer from burn-related injuries. Are you aware of any of the listed steps for burn prevention? Share your tips with us in the comments.

About the author

Megan Reynolds
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Megan Reynolds, MS, is the Clinical Research Coordinator for the Level I Trauma Center at Baylor’s flagship hospital in Dallas, Baylor University Medical Center. She is a native Texan and proud UNT Mean Green alum.

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These common mistakes are putting your family at risk for dangerous burns