2014-02-21 / In the Know

First week of February is Burn Awareness Week

By B. Michael Thurlow
Special contributor

The first week in February each year is designated as Burn Awareness Week. This is a good time to talk with your family about burn prevention and how to avoid scalds.

Nearly 500,000 people in the U.S. receive medical treatment for burn injuries each year. Almost half of these injuries are scalds.

While a scald burn can happen to anyone, young children, older adults and those with disabilities are most vulnerable. Most burn injuries happen in the kitchen while preparing and serving hot foods or beverages. They also happen in the bathroom from exposure to hot tap water in bathtubs or showers.

Scald injuries are painful and require prolonged treatment. They may result in lifelong scarring and even death. Prevention of scalds is always preferable to treatment and can be accomplished through simple changes in behavior and the home environment.

The American Burn Association recommends the following simple safety tips to decrease the risk to yourself and those you love from scalds and burns:

Install anti-scald devices on tub faucets and shower heads;

Allow microwaved food to cool before eating;

Do not flush toilets, use dish washers or clothes washers while someone is showering to avoid sudden fluctuations in water temperature;

If it is necessary to move hot liquids while using a wheelchair, place a large sturdy tray with a solid handle in your lap to decrease the risk of lap burns;

Set home water heater thermostats to deliver water at a temperature no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. An easy method to test this is to allow hot water to run for three to five minutes, and then test with a candy, meat or water thermometer. Adjust the water heater and wait a day to let the temperature drop. Re-test and re-adjust as necessary;

Provide constant adult supervision of young children or anyone who may experience difficulty removing themselves from hot water on their own. Gather all necessary supplies before placing a child in the tub, and keep them within easy reach;

Fill tub to desired level before getting in. Run cold water first, and then add hot. Turn off the hot water first. This can prevent scalding in case someone should fall in while the tub is filling. Mix the water thoroughly and check the temperature by moving your elbow, wrist or hand with spread fingers through the water before allowing someone to get in;

Install grab bars, shower seats or non-slip flooring in tubs or showers if the person is unsteady or weak;

Establish a “kid zone” out of the traffic path between the stove and sink where children can safely play and still be supervised. Keep young children in high chairs or play yards a safe distance from counters or stovetops, hot liquids, hot surfaces or other cooking hazards; and cook on back burners when young children are present. Keep all pot handles turned back, away from the stove edge. All appliance cords should be coiled and away from the counter edge. During mealtime, place hot items in the center of the table, at least 10 inches from the table edge. Use non-slip placemats instead of tablecloths if toddlers are present. Never drink or carry hot liquids while carrying or holding a child. Quick motions may cause spilling of the liquid onto the child.

For more information about preventing scald burns, contact the American Burn Association at 312-642-9260 or visit www.ameriburn.org. If you have any questions about this article or any fire department issue you may contact me at mthurl@ci.scarborough.me.us or 730-4201.

B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarborough.

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