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Preventing Contact Burns

In 2018, about 70,000 people went to the emergency department because of contact burns. Roughly one-third of those patients were children under the age of five, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS).

Contact burns are caused by touching a hot object. They commonly occur while cooking or using beauty tools such as a curling iron. All contact burns are preventable. Giavonni Lewis, MD, director of University of Utah Health Burn Center, says several common-sense practices can help prevent serious burns.

Cooking Burns

The kitchen is a common place where contact burns occur. “We always recommend a three-foot circle around cooking appliances like stoves and ovens,” Lewis says. Use burners on the back of the stove to prevent children from reaching up and touching hot pots and pans.

Mitts should be used for pulling items from the oven and the microwave. “Treat everything coming out of the microwave as if it were coming out of the oven,” Lewis says, “using mitts to help protect yourself from heat.” Long oven mitts are best to use, especially when taking food out from the oven.

Hair Appliance Tools

Children can grab anything they can reach at any time. Unplug all tools when they are not in use, and always keep out of reach of children. Parents should have a conversation with their children about never touching hair appliances, even if it’s not plugged in.

Pavement Burns

Even on cooler days, the temperature on the ground can get hot enough to injure you. When it’s 77°F, pavement can reach a temperature of 125°F. Always wear shoes on hot pavement or sand. Pets should also be kept off hot pavement.

Fireplace Burns

Gas fireplaces can cause serious burns. Glass doors can reach excessive temperatures and can remain hot for an hour or longer after use. Use safety gates, install screen barriers, and supervise young children at all times around fireplaces. Items around a gas fireplace should be positioned at least three feet away.

Burn Safety

After a burn occurs, Lewis says it’s best to place your burn injury under cool, not cold, water. “You can have another injury on top of the burn injury if you use too much cold water,” she says. Lewis also recommends seeking advice from your local burn center or going to the emergency room for burn injury help.