Man cooking

Burn prevention awareness year-round

As this year’s National Burn Awareness Week comes to a close, my thoughts turn to how we can continue the conversation that often starts with these kinds of health observances.  This year’s theme, “Electrical Safety from Amps to Zap (A to Z)!” focused on, and raised awareness of, the thousands of burns experienced each year in the U.S. due to electrical causes. This week gave Fire & Life Safety (FLS) educators and related health and injury prevention professionals an opportunity to reinforce key burn prevention measures related to safe use of electrical equipment. Kudos to the American Burn Association and their collaborators for the amazing work of bringing electrical burn injuries to public’s attention.

But burn prevention in general is a year-round need with a myriad of types and causes of burns impacting mortality and quality of life. Cooking continues to be the leading cause of reported home fires and home-fire injuries, and cooking related non-fire burns the highest cause of burn injuries. The NFPA Non-Fire Cooking Burn Injuries report details the various causes of cooking related non-fire burn injuries reported from 2014-2018.  Just over 15,000 burn injuries were treated annually during that time period in Emergency Departments (ED) due to contact with hot range/oven with just over 11,000 burn injuries treated due to tableware or cup scalds. 

Children under the age of five account for just 6% of the population yet bear a disproportionate burden of burns due largely to hot tableware, cup scalds, contact with hot grills and contact with hot ranges or ovens.  Microwave scalds were more associated with older children (5-14 years) representing 38% of such burns treated at ED’s. Scald prevention for all ages includes a mix of environmental and behavioral changes that can make a real impact such as installing anti-scald devices on tub facets and shower heads, testing bath water to make sure it is less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) and keeping kids and pets three feet away from cooking and where hot foods/drinks are being prepared and served.

Whether due to electrical, cooking, contact with fire, burns continue to impact quality of life, with over 400,000 burn injuries requiring medical treatment each year in the U.S., we have plenty of work to do to assure burn prevention is a regular component of fire prevention education. And no matter the topic, a reminder that Working smoke alarms, in every bedroom, level and outside every sleeping area, Carbon monoxide alarms, on every level, and a Home Fire Escape Plan, are a must in every home.

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Andrea Vastis
Senior Director, Public Education, public health promotion & education professional passionate about eliminating disparities in access, education and resources.

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