Health & Fitness

Safety tips to avoid burns during winter

During cold-weather months, we tend to see specific preventable burn injuries as a result of people trying to stay warm. Fire is a major winter hazard that is often avoidable. For example, according to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters cause 40 percent of home heating fires as well as 84 percent of home heating fire deaths.

The Via Christi Regional Burn Center reminds everyone, especially parents and caregivers, to keep these safety tips in mind.

Space heaters

▪ Keep them away from curtains, bedding and other fabric-covered items. Place on nonflammable, hard surfaces only.

▪ Keep toddlers and the elderly a safe distance away to prevent accidental falls.

▪ Never plug in a space heater with other electrical appliances or items in order to prevent overheating and electrical fires. Don’t use an extension cord.

▪ Turn them off at bedtime.

▪ Don’t use an oven or stove as a heat source.

▪ Space heaters can cause burns even without flame. Be aware that heating elements can cause contact burns quickly and radiant heat can burn when the body remains close to the heater for an extended period of time.


Also campfires, chimineas and fire pits

▪ Keep toddlers and the elderly a safe distance away to prevent accidental falls.

▪ Actively supervise children and pets around any fire.

▪ Remember that coals and wood can still be hot several hours and even the day after a fire is extinguished.

▪ Protect your fireplace with a well-fitted screen to prevent sparks and embers from escaping.

▪ Remember that protective fireplace glass and metal screens can become very hot.

▪ Make sure a fire is properly ventilated and the vessel is kept clean to prevent smoke inhalation.

▪ Never use lighter fluid or accelerant to start a fire as it can be unpredictable and cause a flash fire.

Hot water heaters

▪ Set hot water heater no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

▪ Test water with your wrist or elbow before a child or elderly adult gets in the bath.

▪ Never leave children alone in the bathtub or in the bathroom while the tub is filling.

▪ Don’t boil water on the stove to create a hot bath as you can’t be sure how hot the water will be.

Hot drinks and soups

▪ When cooking with large amounts of liquid, such as making soup or spaghetti, do not hold children. Keep them away from the stove and turn pot handles out of reach. Use rear burners when possible. Keep hot foods away from the edge of the counter.

▪ If warming liquids in the microwave, allow them to cool before removing them or drinking them. Slowly open containers to avoid splashes or scald burns from steam.

▪ If an adult is drinking coffee or hot liquid, don’t hold an infant or small child as the liquid could accidentally cause a scald burn if spilled.

In addition, be sure you have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, especially near bedrooms. Be sure your whole family knows and practices a home fire escape plan with two escape routes out of every room. Keep all matches, gasoline and lighters – and lit candles – out of reach of children.

Sarah Fischer, BSN, RN, is coordinator of the burn program for Via Christi Regional Burn Center in Wichita.