Childsafe’s top 10 tips to prevent burn injuries

These simple tips will protect children and may avoid devastating tragedies that could have life-changing consequences.

In the last year, the Trauma Unit at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital treated 1 117 children for burn injuries. Of these injuries, 800 were a sustained by hot water and scalding liquids such as tea.

With their innate curiosity about the world, and their growing independence, children under the age of five are most susceptible to sustaining burn injuries. “Burns are not only related to fire. Scalding from boiling or very hot liquids is also classified as a burn — and these occur more frequently than fire-related burns. If a child does survive the incident, more serious injuries can require a lifetime of rehabilitation and medical attention,” says ChildSafe Executive Director Yolande Baker. “Children can get burned at any time of the year, but we see a dramatic increase in the number of children treated for burns in the colder months with stoves, heaters and open fires used to heat homes,” she adds.

Burn injuries can be prevented

“Every injury caused by burns is a tragedy. However, these injuries can be averted with extra vigilance and monitoring from parents and caregivers. Children can be burned in many ways, but there are equally as many ways to prevent children from getting burned in the first place. There are many ways to make a home safer, but children still need to be constantly reminded of the dangers of being near to flames or boiling liquids. It’s something that needs to be reinforced every day,” says Yolande.

ALSO SEE: 5 first aid tips for heat burns 

  • Be vigilant with children around heaters, stoves, candles and other open flames such as candles, paraffin lamps, portable stoves, braais and wood or coal fires.
  • Turn pot handles towards the back of the stove.
  • Place hot liquids and food at the centre of the table.
  • Always test the water temperature with your elbow before placing a child in the bath.
  • Place kettles and cords at the back of the counter or table.
  • Teach children from as young as possible about the difference between the hot and cold taps.
  • Avoid overloading power points, and don’t run electrical wires under carpets.
  • Cover unused power outlets with safety plugs.
  • Never hold a child while cooking on the stove.
  • Immediately extinguish wood and coal fires with water, and paraffin, oil or petrol fires with sand or a fire extinguisher once you’ve finished using them.

ChildSafe also offers these simple first-aid steps in the event of a child is burned:

  • Remove the child from the source of danger.
  • Cool a burn under cold water for a long time.
  • Protect the injury with a clean cloth or plastic wrap.
  • Seek advice immediately from a medical professional or emergency services.

ALSO SEE: 7 tips from Netcare 911 on how to treat burns

Child Safety Month runs throughout August. For more information contact, or visit

More about the organisation:

Childsafe, a campaign of the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Southern Africa (CAPFSA) and Safe Kids Worldwide, promotes optimal health and development of all children in South Africa. Childsafe aims to reduce and prevent intentional and unintentional injuries of all severity through research, education, environmental change and recommendations for legislation.

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