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Glass-front Fireplaces Can Cause Serious Burns

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Glass-front Fireplaces Can Cause Serious Burns

Jan 15, 2019

Because they can reach temperatures up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, glass-front gas fireplaces are responsible for many preventable burn injuries to children each year. Jordan Green shares the harrowing experience of his infant son who burned his hand one morning and faced a long and painful period of wound care and rehabilitation afterward. Learn what safety precautions you can take if you have a glass-front fireplace in your home.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: If you have a glass-fronted gas fireplace and a toddler or young child, what you're about to hear could save them a lifetime of pain and disability. That's coming up next on The Scope.

Announcer: Health information from experts supported by research. From University of Utah Health, this is

Interviewer: Glass-fronted gas fireplaces are responsible for a lot of preventable burn injuries to toddlers and young children each year. And these burn injuries often require painful wound care and rehabilitation. The end result can be scarring that interferes with normal function, as well as psychological after effects that will be with them for the rest of their life.

Jordan Green's son was badly burned by a glass-front gas fireplace a few years ago, and he wanted to tell his story in hopes that it prevents another child from going through the same thing and, hopefully, you as a parent as well. So several years ago, your child was burned by a glass-front gas fireplace. What happened?

Jordan: We just moved back to Utah. We built a home and it was finished right before Thanksgiving. I was actually at work. My wife woke up one morning. It was cold outside. It might have been snowing. And she had the fireplace on, and the kid was playing on the floor with his toys, our son. And she just heard a loud, loud scream and ran to him. And he was . . . obviously, he had touched the glass on the fireplace.

I got a phone call. My wife was in a complete panic and she said Maddox had burned his hand and was going on and on and freaking out. And I said, "Get him to an urgent care." So she rushed him to urgent care as fast as possible and we kind of went from there.

Interviewer: Yeah, and ended up in the burn center because those fireplaces burn at 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Jordan: We just weren't aware. We just weren't aware.

Interviewer: Yeah. Do you have any idea how long his hand was in contact? Because what makes these burns worse is not only the temperature but these glass-fronted gas fireplaces, sometimes, they're so hot, it starts to melt the skin. And the child, not only doesn't realize that they're getting burned, but they can't get their hand off there.

Jordan: We don't know. My wife was, I think, doing dishes or something, but it was only maybe a couple of seconds. I mean, it was so fast. You look, it only takes one second. Your hand in there for one second . . .

Interviewer: That's all it takes, one second.

Jordan: Yeah, for it to burn like that.

Interviewer: And you have a picture and that was right after he got his hand burnt. And if you've ever burnt yourself before, you know how you get that white blister.

Jordan: Yeah.

Interviewer: His whole hand is practically like that.

Jordan: Well, and what you don't see, yeah, his whole hand is like that. But what you don't see is it's deep. It was burned so deep into his skin. I mean, well, what really hurt and was tough was all the treatments. You know, peeling back the skin, cleaning it, all the different treatments we had to do. I mean, it lasted almost two years, the process. It was crazy.

Interviewer: Two years?

Jordan: Yeah.

Interviewer: You had mentioned that coming up here for this interview that, you said, yeah, you know your way around pretty well because of all the times you had to come back. What did that process look like after the burn and then over that two-year period?

Jordan: It's crazy because your kid's so little and they're so precious and, I mean, he was not even a year old when it happened but it's like never-ending. I mean, it's two years of coming here. At first, we had to peel the dead skin away, clean it, and he would freak out. It was like the accident was happening over and over again every time we came. And that's how it was for the first several months, several treatments, is they're cleaning it out, painful for him. It's painful for his parents. We have to hold him down while they're cleaning it out. Yeah, it's an experience that you do not wish on your worst enemy, let alone your child.

Interviewer: So not only is it really painful when it happens, not only is the treatment excruciatingly painful, but the damage could last a lifetime. Yeah, I mean, to the extent that you will lose full mobility or usefulness of your hand.

Jordan: One of the scary things is . . . it may sound naÔve but you don't want your kid to grow up that has a dysfunctional hand or anything. You want him to grow up and be able to play baseball and throw a baseball and do all those normal things that we all grew up doing. And that was . . . another thing is we didn't know when we were out of the clear. Well, it could get infected. Well, we might have to go back in and they talked about if the scarring was severe enough that they would have to re-cut open the scars and relieve some of that intention.

And so for two years of all these check-ups, we never knew we're out in the clear. We still have to look and make sure that his function in his hand is properly working and things like that. And luckily, it's been great. We came up to the burn clinic and they did an amazing job.

Interviewer: But in your son's case, he's got full mobility of it, from what you've told me.

Jordan: He's got full mobility. He's got little scarring. And I know you saw the picture, it's hard to believe that that entire white deep-scarred palm, you know, you can see it now at 22 months, is barely recognized. I mean, you can barely see that anything happened to it. It looks really, really good. I mean, they . . .

Interviewer: Yeah. So what have you learned about preventing this type of injury since you've went to this experience? You said that you had no idea going in. The people you know have no idea. What have you learned since then?

Jordan: Well, I think it's awareness. I mean, if there's something as simple as a sticker on our glass of our fireplace just to say, "Hey, this gets to this temperature." We were just naÔve and unaware about it. And we're not the only ones because you were just saying every year, these little kids go to the University of Utah Burn Clinic for the same thing. I mean, it goes . . . it's a cycle.

Interviewer: Do you still use that fireplace?

Jordan: We still do use it.

Interviewer: How do you use it safely now?

Jordan: We put an iron guard around it that we fastened onto it. It's very sturdy and durable. Things are changing, obviously. The industry noticed that there was a problem and started making the adjustments, but you still see them. There are still all these homes built. And so we talked about it, but I just think awareness, specifically for that, would have saved us two years of heartache, but just drawing awareness and talking to people about it. Yeah.

Interviewer: Jordan, thank you very much for telling your story. I hope that maybe it prevents a few of these from happening because, unfortunately, sometimes people have to experience these things for other people to go, "Ha, this is a real threat. This is a real deal."

Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. And that's the thing is it was a lot of heartache for us, but, hopefully, we can prevent people from going through what we've been through.

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updated: January 15, 2019
originally published: December 14, 2016