Burns and Scalds: 1 - 2 Years












How big a problem is it?

Burns and scalds, particularly those from hot water and liquids, are real risks in every home and are a leading cause of injury for younger children. They often happen when an adult is present - from kids washing their hands under a tap that’s too hot, to an accidental tipping of a coffee cup. Around 3 children aged 1 - 2 years are admitted to hospital for a burn/scald injury each week.

Who does it affect?

Young children 1-2 years of age are especially at risk because they're inquisitive, small, and their skin is a lot thinner than an adult’s. You can make your home a lot safer by taking some simple precautions.

Top Tips

Hot water burns like fire so give yourself one less thing to worry about and set your hot water tap to between 50 and 55 degrees centigrade.


Around the house:
  • It’s tempting to eat and drink or even cook while holding children but these are the most common reasons for burns and scalds. Try serving cold drinks when children are present and to have a tea break when they’re sleeping.

  • Use protective screens to stop children from grabbing onto fireplaces to steady themselves. These will also prevent their clothes from accidentally catching on fire.

  • If you need to walk with hot liquids make sure you know where your child is so you don’t trip over them.

  • Make sure you place hot appliances such as the iron and hair straighteners out of reach after they’ve been used. 

  • Children are inquisitive and will play with matches and lighters so keep them locked away. 

  • Put safety covers on all electrical outlets as kids love to explore and will readily put a fork or keys into a wall socket. 

  • Every house should have a working fire alarm on every level and in each bedroom, living area and hallway. Make a note to check them monthly and to change the battery twice a year.

  • Tablecloths and large placemats can easily be pulled by little kids, bringing hot food and drink with them. To prevent this from happening, avoid using tablecloths and use only small placemats, and put hot drinks in the middle of the table so they can’t be reached.

  • Remove lint from the clothes dryer filter after each use and ensure your dryer has proper ventilation and airspace around it.

In the kitchen:
  • Liquid heats unevenly in a microwave and this can mean that hot drinks will heat unevenly and scald mouths. Make sure you stir drinks well after microwaving and test the temperature on the inside of your wrist.

  • Before you start to cook, organise your child with activities so that you know where they are and what they are doing, or place them somewhere safe such as in a playpen or highchair for a short time. 

  • If you have small children around you while you are cooking, remember they love to reach, so turn pot handles towards the back and block access to the stove. Keep hot foods and drinks away from the edge of the counter. 

  • Include older kids in cooking so you can use the opportunity to teach them how to cook safely. Only let them use the microwave when they are tall enough to reach inside safely, and remind them to always use oven gloves when taking food off the stove and out of the oven.

In the bathroom:
  • When you are filling the bath or sink, turn on the cold water first and turn it off last. Check your child’s bath water with your wrist or elbow before letting them get in. 

Outside the home:
  • The sun can heat up playground equipment quickly and burn a child’s thin skin. If it’s a very hot day only use the play equipment in the morning and at night when it has had a chance to cool down.

  • A car seat’s vinyl and metal parts can heat up when left in the sun and cause nasty burns, so when they’re not in use move them into the shade. 

  • Ensure that as you light the bbq you are a safe distance from any lawn games and areas where your children play.

First Aid

  • If your child has a serious burn or scald that is causing a lot of pain or involves their eyes, call 111 immediately. 

  • Run cool water from a tap or shower over the burn for up to 20 minutes or until an ambulance arrives. Use lukewarm water for babies as they can develop hypothermia. 

  • When the burn has cooled, carefully remove clothing from the area, cutting around the fabric if it is stuck. 

  • To prevent infection, loosely cover the burn (except when on the face) with a clean non-fluffy material such as a sheet (or plastic wrap), and avoid touching the burn. 

  • If the burn is causing on-going pain or involves the eyes, see your doctor as soon as possible.

  • Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 if you are unsure what to do for ongoing treatment.

Links to Safekids’ resources

Burns Injury Prevention Resources

Links to other organisations’ information

Burns Support Group

NZ National Burn Service Patient and Whā nau Information

NZ Fire and Emergency Department Home Safety Information

Vector Line Safety