Families can take steps to prevent burn and scald injuries.
Fire safety devices such as smoke alarms, fire detection systems, and sprinklers reduce injury risk from fire events by up to 60%.3
Burns from hot surfaces and scalds from hot liquids are more common than any other types of thermal injury among young children. They occur more frequently in boys than girls, but all young children ages 0-4 years are at a higher risk than children ages 5 years and older, with the frequency of sustaining a burn decreasing with age.1
Infants up to 12 months-of-age tend to experience scalds from hot liquids inadvertently spilled onto their bodies by others, or from being bathed in water that is too hot. Children older than 12 months of age tend to experience scalds from spilling hot liquids onto themselves, such as those in mugs or pots, and sustain burns from touching hot objects, such as the stovetop or the glass front of a fireplace.
The kitchen is the most frequent setting for burns and scalds to occur in young children. Risk factors include:
Pot handles or hot beverages within reach of young children.
Dangling appliance cords—children can pull down slow cookers or electric kettles
Children climbing or sitting on countertops where they can reach hot beverages, cookware, or appliances.
Risk factors for burns or scalds occurring in the bathroom include:
Hot water heater set to a temperature greater than 49 degrees Celsius (°C).
Setting hot tap water to 49°C does not eliminate the risk of a scald, but it does increase the time it takes to scald a young child’s skin and can potentially reduce the severity of the scald.
Bath water temperature being too hot.
Child has access to hot water taps.
Child has access to appliances such as hair straighteners or curlers.
Risk factors in other areas of the home include:
Glass fronted fireplaces without barriers.
Child has access to household appliances, such as irons, space heaters, and bottle warmers.
The prevention of burns and scalds among young children can be approached with both passive and active efforts. Passive prevention strategies are those that need to be put in place once only, while active strategies need to be employed each and every time.
Passive Prevention Strategies:
Childproof bathroom doors.
Place a gate or fence around older fireplaces or space heaters.
Lower the hot water temperature to 49°C.
Install external mixing valve taps to mix cold water with hot water.
Install fire safety devices such as smoke alarms, fire detection systems, sprinklers (Note: these should be checked periodically to ensure they are working).
Active Prevention Strategies:
Provide constant, close supervision.
Use cups with lids or travel mugs for hot liquids.
Turn pot handles inward on the stove and cook on the back elements whenever possible.
Keep appliance cords out of reach and appliances away from table and counter edges.
Check your child’s bath water with your elbow prior to placing them in the water.
Since 2016, BCIRPU has collaborated with the City of Surrey, City of Surrey Fire Service, and the University of the Fraser Valley, on a number of projects related to home and fire safety. Topics include:
- Effectiveness of smoke alarms and sprinkler systems in the home;
- Determining risk factors of residential fires;
- Fire severity outcome comparison of apartment buildings constructed from combustible and non-combustible construction materials;
- Injury Insight: The Cost of Burns Among Young Children (PDF) (February 2021)
- Injury Insight: Burns in Young Children (PDF) (December 2019)
BCIRPU projects related to fire safety
BCIRPU has collaborated on a number of projects related to home and fire safety, and the health and wellness of firefighters.
Dr. Ian Pike receives Fire Researcher of the Year Award
The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs selected Dr. Pike as this year’s recipient.
Kids in neighbourhoods with larger households less likely to be killed in residential fires
The study is the first to broadly investigate the socioeconomic factors that affect fire incidence and fire-related injuries and death at the neighbourhood level in Canada.
1. BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit. (2019). Injury Insight: Landing in Hot Water: Burn Prevention for Young Children. Available from: https://open.library.ubc.ca/media/stream/pdf/52387/1.0396144/5
2. Clouatre E, Pinto R, Banfield J, Jeschke MG. Incidence of hot tap water scalds after the introduction of regulations in Ontario. Journal of Burn Care & Research. 2013 Mar 1;34(2):243-8.
3. Zheng A, Jiang A, Rajabali F, Turcotte K, Garis L, Pike I. Examining the Relationship Between Firefighter Injuries and Fatalities in the Built Environment: A case for reducing the risk to firefighters through adequate firefighting experience, working smoke alarms and sprinkler coverage in buildings. A report by the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, for the University of the Fraser Valley: Vancouver, BC, May 2018.