Protecting your child from burns and scalds

  • 11-14
  • 3-5
  • 5-7
  • 8-11
  • Babies
  • Toddlers
  • Burns and scalds
  • Fire safety
  • Garden safety
  • Home safety

Six toddlers are admitted to hospital every day because they’ve been badly burned. Babies and young children have such delicate skin that they can be burned far more easily than adults.

Did you know?

  • A cup of tea could be the most dangerous thing in your lounge. Any hot drink can scald a baby even 15 minutes after it's been made.
  • Your hair straighteners can get as hot as an iron. Your child can be burned if they touch them – even if they’ve been unplugged for up to 15 minutes!

Hot tea

Safety reminders – how to stop burns and scalds

In the kitchen

There’s more to watch out for than just the oven – kettles, hot drinks and saucepans can all burn. Young children can climb on chairs and counters and may often reach higher than you think.

Saucepans can seem like fun to play with. Turning the saucepan handles away from the edge of the counter or cooker and using the back rings keeps them out of reach of little hands.

Kettle cords are also a temptation, but if you push the cord to the back of the worktop, or use a kettle with a short or curly flex, you will be able to keep them out of reach.

Hot drinks can easily be knocked over or grabbed by little fingers, and a cup of tea can burn even 15 minutes after it’s been made. So put your baby or child down before picking up your hot drink, avoid passing them over children’s heads and keep them out of reach of children.

Hobs and hotplates can all stay hot even after they’ve been turned off, and oven doors can be very hot when the oven is on. You can teach children how to behave safely around them, but they might not understand or remember the danger so it’s best to keep them away.

Microwaves don’t heat things in the same way as a cooker. Avoid warming babies’ bottles in the microwave, the milk may heat up unevenly leaving spots of very hot milk which can scald your baby’s mouth. Use a warmer or jug of hot water instead. Shake the bottle well after warming and test to make sure it’s lukewarm not hot.

Chip pans can easily cause fires! If you don’t want to switch to oven chips, or use an electric deep-fat fryer, make sure you only fill your pan 1/3 full and keep an eye on it.

Matches, cigarette lighters and candles are grown-up objects. Toddlers and young children can find them fascinating. It’s safest to keep matches, lighters and candles out of their reach and sight. If you can lock them away, even better. Remember that even though lighters are child-resistant, many 3 and 4 year olds will be able to operate them in a few seconds – and the child-resistant mechanism is no barrier for older children.

In the bedroom

Hair straighteners and curling tongs. Hair straighteners get really hot and can still burn even after they’re unplugged. If they’re stored safely on a high shelf, or put inside a heatproof bag, you can stop your little ones from playing with them, or touching or stepping on them by accident.

In the bathroom

Whether your child loves them or hates them, there’s no avoiding bath time. A baby’s skin is 15 times thinner than an adult’s, so hot water can pose a real danger to children.

Cold before hot. You can make sure the water is the right temperature by putting the cold water in the bath first. When the cold water has run, add the hot to get the right temperature.

The elbow test. The quickest way to check! Dipping your elbow into the water gives a good idea of how it will feel for your baby or toddler. It shouldn’t feel hot or cold.

Thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) are a great invention. They control the temperature of the hot tap so that you can have a nice hot bath but they stop children being scalded within seconds. Some newer houses and flats have TMVs on the taps already, but you can get them installed by a professional.

Bath time. Many scald accidents happen when a child gets into the bath before it’s ready, play with the hot tap when they're in the bath or lean over to pick out a toy and fall in. Bath water can cause such bad burns that children need years of treatment and may be scarred for life. Staying with your child all the time when they’re in the bath time means you can keep them safe and also share some quality time.

The living room

Here’s where the toddlers take over. A living room can be full of surprises - exciting things to grab for and places to explore. Even if your baby has just started to crawl, you’d be surprised at the things they can reach.

Hot drinks are something to watch out for here too. Choose a high shelf to put your mug on, rather than a low coffee table. If you need a relaxing cup of tea, ask someone else to hold the baby while you put your feet up, or put the baby in its own chair.

Heaters and fires. Dancing flames can be appealing to babies and toddlers. A fire guard can stop them getting to the fire and reaching for or falling into the flames.

Irons. Irons will stay hot after they’re unplugged. Even older children could make a mistake and touch a hot iron. it is always safest to put it away – out of reach and out of sight after you’ve used it.

Outside

Barbecues and bonfires can be a worry for parents. But with the right supervision, children can enjoy the summer fun without being at risk.

Barbecues stay hot for a long time, even when all the food has gone. Disposable barbecues can be tipped into a bucket of cold water to help them cool quicker, while children are kept out of the way!

Bonfires are fascinating for children. Even though they usually only happen once a year it’s best to teach children to stay a safe distance from the fire and supervise them carefully.

Fireworks are understandably a worry for parents, especially in autumn when many people have bonfire parties and fireworks nights. See our fireworks page for more information.