Burns and scalds: 3 - 4 years



How big a problem is it?

Burns and scalds are real risks in every home, especially from hot water and liquids. They are a leading cause of injury for children. Each week, more than five children are burned severely enough to be admitted to hospital. Nearly all burn injuries take place within the home, especially in the kitchen.

Who does it affect?

Young children and preschoolers are especially at risk because they are inquisitive, small and their skin is a lot thinner than an adult’s and therefore burn much more easily. Most children affected are under the age of four. 

Top Tips

Around the house:

  • Set your hot water tap to between 50-55 degrees centigrade 

  • Don’t eat and drink or cook while holding children. This is the most common reason for burns and scalds. Try to serve cold drinks when children are present and save the hot liquids for when they are sleeping or not around. 

  • Use protective screens to stop children from touching fireplaces. 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 children are so you don’t trip over them. 

  • Place lighters, matches and hot appliances such as the iron and hair straighteners out of reach after they’ve been used. 

  • Put safety covers on all electrical outlets as children love to explore and will readily put a fork or keys into a power point. 

  • Every house should have a working fire alarm on every level and in each bedroom, living area and hallway. Check these monthly and change the batteries twice a year. 

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

In the kitchen:

  • Liquid heats unevenly in a microwave and this can mean that hot drinks will heat unevenly and could scald a child’s mouth. Make sure you stir drinks well after microwaving and test the temperature on the inside of your wrist. 

  • When cooking, make sure you know where your children are and what they are doing - place them somewhere safe such as in a playpen or highchair for a short time. 

  • 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 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 burns, so when they’re not in use move the car into the shade.

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 Whānau Information

NZ Fire and Emergency Home Safety Information

Vector Safety