More than 11 million people last year visited hospital owing to a burn and more than 500 children under five are taken to hospital every week because of burns and scalds. They area also a major cause of injury in the over 60s.

Burns can be very serious for small children and babies as they haven’t fully developed the reflex to move away from something hot and are therefore more likely to expose their skin to it for longer. Their skin is up to 15 times thinner than that of an adult and damage tends to be more severe because they have a smaller body surface area which means the burn covers a larger proportion of their body. The greater the area covered, the more serious the injury and the impact for the child. For an older person, they are slower to respond to pain and if they have peripheral nerve damage they may not even feel the initial burning and realise they are hurt. Older skin is thinner and more friable too and often older people are fiercely independent, but more prone to accidents.

Burns can be extremely frightening and the pain and damage caused can last for many years and even a lifetime.

Knowing what to do can radically reduce the amount of pain and scarring experienced by a casualty and can ensure they have the best possible chance of recovery, sometimes without even being admitted.

Prevention is key.


Hot drinks are a particularly common cause of burns and scalds. A hot drink can still be hot enough to scald a baby, young child, or older person 15 minutes after it has been made! Always think carefully before putting hot drinks down, ensure they are out of children’s reach and are not likely to be knocked over.

Never breastfeed while drinking tea/coffee or pass hot drinks over people’s heads.

Bathroom Safety

It is important that you always test the water temperature of the bath before getting in. Use a bath thermometer. Always run cold water before hot so the bottom of the bath doesn’t get overheated.

Never leave a running bath unattended. Ideally have a bath tap/shower attachment with a thermostat installed to prevent the temperature changing mid hair-wash if someone else in the house uses a tap!

Heated towel rails are often low enough for a child to grasp and hot enough to burn or even remove their skin. Keep them turned off while your children are little.

Kitchen Safety

Always use the rear hob on your cooker and turn pan handles away from the edge. You can buy silica oven shelf protectors, which are really effective.

Fix sturdy cupboard door locks where you store cleaning chemicals and dishwasher tablets. They are all very strong alkali that can quickly burn. This applies to bleach etc. in the bathroom too.

Use a kettle with a short or curly flex and keep it very clear of little hands.

Keep chairs and stools away from work surfaces and windows to avoid children climbing to otherwise out of reach areas.

When microwaving food or milk, thoroughly shake/mix it before giving it to your child as microwave heating results in hot spots which can burn.

Be careful of tripping hazards in the kitchen and around the house, for older people, a trolley can be a useful aid to safely transport teapots and cups of tea around the house.

Other Dangers

Button batteries can burn through a child’s oesophagus if swallowed. Check they are securely screwed into toys and be careful of batteries contained within greetings cards.

Curling tongs, hair straighteners and irons remain maintain their heat for a long time after they have been unplugged. Always keep them and their flex well out of reach.

Radiators should have covers.

Outdoors, keep children away from barbeques (even when you’ve finished using them) and be particularly vigilant around bonfires and fireworks. It is highly recommended that you attend a practical or online first aid course to learn how to help in a medical emergency.

 For more information about how to treat burns, we recommend you this article


First Aid for Life and provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. The best way to be prepared for action in an emergency is to attend a practical first aid course.

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