Burn awareness week, an initiative of the American Burn Association, is observed the first full week in February. This initiative helps educate the public about the frequency and causes of burn injuries as well as how to help prevent them.
A few burn facts:
- Burn injuries continue to be one of the leading causes of unintentional death and injury in the United States.
- The primary causes of burn injury include fire-flame, scalds, contact with hot objects, electrical and chemicals.
- Burns and fires are a common cause of accidental death in children and adults and account for an estimated 3,500 adult and child deaths per year.
- Nearly 75% of all scalding burns in children are preventable.
- Toddlers and children are more often burned by a scalding or flames.
- The majority of children ages 4 and under, who are hospitalized for burn-related injuries, suffer from scalds burns (65%) or contact burns (20%).
- Hot tap water burns cause more death and hospitalizations than burns from any other hot liquids.
Risky behaviors that can lead to burn injuries:
- Poor attention to cooking; placement, use and maintenance of portable heating equipment, smoking or unattended open flames.
- Inadequate fire protection, i.e., not having smoke alarms.
- Overloading electrical outlets.
- Continuing to use old appliances or ones in disrepair.
Burn Awareness Education & Tips
These are a few tips to help educate you and your family about fire safety and burns. You can find more at the American Burn Awareness site.
Reduce Kitchen Fire Hazards
Cooking is the number one cause of home fires.
- Wear snug fitting or short sleeves while cooking and wear oven mitts to protect the hands and arms from burns or scalding.
- Stay in or near the kitchen while cooking. It is easy to lose track of time when you get involved in other activities.
- If a grease fire occurs, put a lid on the pan and the fire should go out. If a fire occurs in a microwave, keep the door closed and unplug it. You should not use it again until it has been serviced.
- Have a fire extinguisher in an easy-to-reach location.
- Use only one heat producing appliance on the same electrical circuit at a time.
Reduce Heater Hazards
- Space heaters need space; the best advice is to allow at least 3 feet of space on each side of the heater.
- Maintain your heaters by keeping them clean and in good working condition. You may even want to have them serviced by a professional on a regular basis.
- Use the right fuel for your heater. Keep fuel outside and locked, if possible, so that others such as children cannot get to it.
- Never use portable electric heaters in the bathroom.
- Don’t overload circuits or use extension cords.
- When using electric blankets, be sure to check for cracks or breaks in the wiring. Do not put anything on top of it (such as another blanker) when you are using it.
Electrical Fire Safety
Electrical fires can be caused by appliance defects, misuse or poor maintenance, incorrectly installed wiring, overloaded outlets and more.
- Keep your electrical appliances in good working order.
- Check wall outlets for cracks or loose screws.
- Check appliances, lamps, and TVs for frayed or split cords, damaged plugs or other cracks.
- Do not overload electrical outlets or run cords under rungs.
- Have a qualified electrician install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
The best preventive measure is to not allow smoking in your home or workplace; however, that is not always possible.
- Have large, deep, non-tip ashtrays available.
- Wet down cigarette butts and ashes before emptying ashtrays. Pick up cigarette butts left in your yard.
- Never smoke where you sleep.
- Keep lighters and matches out of reach of children
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published January 29, 2018. It was reviewed on January 20, 2023 and updated for content and accuracy.