Keeping kids safe around fires and flames

June is National Burns Awareness Month, so here's a few reminders on keeping your kids safe around stoves, fires and heaters.

Preventing household burns

If you have a toddler who regularly reaches up towards pots on the stove, you’ll know that hot surfaces around the home need constant monitoring.

Burns and scalds are a major cause of serious injury in children from newborn to 14 years of age. Children under the age of four years, especially those between one and two, are most at risk due to their increased mobility and natural curiosity.

Check your home to prevent these possible risks:

In the kitchen

  • Keep hot food and drinks and all kitchen appliances out of reach of young children. 
  • If you have a toddler or small child at home, avoid using a tablecloth. (Toddlers may pull on tablecloths and spill hot drinks or food on themselves.)
  • Keep kettle flexes above the bench top.
  • Don't let small children play near the stove when it’s in use. Children may:
    Burn themselves on the oven door; pull on saucepan handles within reach and scald themselves; tip over a stove not secured to the wall.
  • Install stove and oven guards. Cooking fires are the leading cause of house fires. Older children are at particular risk of burns from flames.
  • Never leave food unattended on a stove.
  • Keep cooking areas free of towels and other flammable objects. Put out a small fire on a stove by sliding a lid over the flames.
  • Don't wear clothing with long, loose sleeves while cooking.
  • Do not use a microwave oven to warm baby bottles. The liquid may heat up unevenly and scald your baby’s mouth.

Around the home

  • Never leave hot clothing irons and hair curlers unattended. Keep them out of reach.
  • Children may pull on the cord attached to the hot iron.
  • Store matches and lighters in a locked cabinet or where children can’t reach them.
  • Never leave candles unattended. Blow them out when you leave the room.
  • Dispose of used cigarettes carefully. Fires caused by smoking materials are the leading cause of deaths in house fires.
  • Before using barbecues or grills, clean them of grease build-up. Keep children away from hot barbeques.
  • Store harmful chemicals and cleaners in an area where children cannot access them.
  • Use an electric socket guard and check all connection for exposed wires.

Fireplaces and heaters

  • Ensure a fire guard is fixed securely to prevent children touching the fireplace or combustion heater. 
  • Choose an electric heater that has an automatic safety switch that turns the heater off if tipped over. Radiating heaters are not recommended.
  • Use space heaters carefully and teach children to stay away from them.
  • Flues and chimneys should be cleaned regularly to prevent a build-up of flammable material and ensure the fireplace functions correctly.
  • Keep all heaters away from curtains and other flammable materials.

John Harvey, head of The Burns Unit at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead