Preventing childhood burn injuries

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Between 1990 and 2006, overall numbers of burn injuries among children dropped by 31%, according to a study published in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics. Yet while that decrease is cause for celebration—for parents and pediatricians alike—authors of the large scale study, which analyzed some two million burn injuries that resulted in emergency room visits during the 17-year period, point out that burn injuries are still disproportionately high among younger children.

Researchers estimate that some 300 children suffer burn injuries every day in the U.S., and that nearly two thirds of those incidents are among kids ages six and younger. Toddlers and other young children may be more susceptible to serious burns, the researchers say, because their skin is thinner than it will become later in childhood—increasing the potential damage that can be caused by scalding water, or a hot stove, for example. Additionally, at those very young ages parents may underestimate just how mobile—and curious—their kids can be, not realizing the need for additional precautions around the oven, electrical outlets and cleaning chemicals.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, underscores the importance of parents understanding the risks of burn injuries and exercising caution—particularly around the stove, fireplace and other sources of intense heat. According to the study the vast majority of burns (60%) are thermal burns. More than a third of burn injuries are to the hands and fingers, while 21% are to the head and face.

To reduce the risk of burn injuries, Mayo Clinic researchers suggest checking flammability standards on kids’ clothes and bedding, and offer other simple tips for parents, including the importance of storing the iron—and hair straightener, curling iron, etc.—unplugged, making sure to check how hot seat belt and car seat buckles are before placing a child in that seat, and of course, keeping matches and lighters stored safely out of reach.