Burns and Scalds: Birth to 11 months

How big a problem is it?

Each week more than five children are burned severely enough to be admitted to hospital. Each year five children die from burns.

In the 0-4 age group, burns and scalds from hot drinks, food, fats and cooking oils are the leading cause. There are real risks in every home, especially from hot water and liquids. 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.

Who does it affect?

Babies and young children are especially at risk because they're inquisitive, small, and their skin is a lot thinner than an adult’s. Male children are hospitalised at 1.5 times the rate of females. Pacific island and Māori children were hospitalised in the period 2013-2017 at roughly three times the rate of Asian and European/other children.

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.


People working in this field of injury prevention also suggest the following tips will help your child avoid injury.

Around the house

  • It’s tempting to eat and drink or even cook while holding tamariki 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 tamariki 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 tamariki are 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 tamariki love to explore and experiment. They’ll put a fork or keys into a power point that isn’t covered. 

  • 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 down 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.

In the kitchen

  • Liquid heats unevenly in a microwave and this can mean that pēpē’s milk will heat unevenly and could scald their mouth. Make sure you shake the bottle well after microwaving and test the temperature on the inside of your wrist. 

  • Before you start to cook, organise your tamariki 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.

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 in the evening 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.

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 luke-warm water for babies as they can develop hypothermia.

  • 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.

Link to Safekids' resources

Burns Injury Prevention resources

Link to other organisation's information

Burns Support Group

NZ National Burn Service Patient and Whānau Information

NZ Fire and Emergency Management Home Safety Information

Vector Lines Safety